Case BriefsCOVID 19Tribunals/Commissions/Regulatory Bodies

Central Information Commission (CIC): Vanaja N. Sarna, Information Commissioner disposed of a complaint while stating the following on CPIO’s cryptic one liner response on the issue of migrant workers:

Commission is pained to see such a callous and non-serious attitude of the CPIO while handling the RTI application, more so, during such times of pandemic when every citizen is worried about the frayed lives of the country’s poor and has precipitated an unprecedented humanitarian crisis for migrant workers.

Information Sought

Complainant sought the information from Chief Labour Commissioner with regard to data about migrant workers, who were stranded and placed in various temporary shelter/relief camps.

Submissions

Complainant submitted that he is not satisfied with the reply of the CPIO as he is not seeking any personal information about any particular stranded migrant worker. Instead he merely sought State-wise and district-wise statistics of compliance with the D.O. letter of the Chief Labour Commissioner and statistical information about migrant workers identified during the said enumeration exercise, along with their gender-wise and occupation-wise breakups.

He only sought intimation of the URL of the webpage where the statistics are posted on an official website.

Therefore the reply of the CPIO is difficult to believe and highly unacceptable. There is no reason why this Respondent Public Authority ought not to have such information in their custody when such information has been specifically called for through the D.O.

Respondent Authority cannot shy away from its responsibility of collecting information about migrant workers and making the same publicly accessible even during normal times.

Adding to the submissions, it was stated that, suo moto and time bound public disclosure of data about migrant workers is of utmost importance for ensuring the well-being of this key segment of our society and economy.

Observation & Decision

It is established beyond doubt that the CPIO has handled the RTI application in a very callous and casual manner.

CPIO in his reply dated 05.05.2020 had simply stated that as per the Stat Section is concerned, no such details as asked by the Complainant were available.

Commission was not convinced with the fact that when a D.O. letter was issued by the Chief Labour Commissioner during the time when the whole country is under the grip of a pandemic which has seriously affected the migrant workers and the D.O. letter was sent to all Regional heads to collect the data related to migrant workers, then how is it possible that no action, whatsoever, was taken on this D.O.

To the utmost surprise of the Commission, the CPIO has given a cursory, flimsy and inappropriate reply to the Complainant while totally ignoring the seriousness of the issue raised by the Complainant.

Commission records its severe admonition against the CPIO for such negligent handling of the RTI application concerning an issue of such wide implications.

CPIO appears to be completely unaware of the provisions of the RTI Act as had he been aware, he could have transferred the same to the appropriate authority to obtain the collated information from them.

Such poor handling shows complete laxity towards the implementation of the RTI Act which was enacted to promote transparency and accountability in the country and in case such a lapse is repeated in future, the Commission will be constrained to initiate penal action against the CPIO.

Need of the hour is to get concrete data regarding the number of stranded migrant workers across the country so that necessary measures may be taken by the concerned State Governments/ UTs to provide some relief to them.

Further the Commission added to its conclusion that, it is pertinent to note that given the uncertainties of the present times, any further delay in disclosing these details or evading the disclosure will only compound the difficulties of either side, the government and that of the unfortunate migrant workers.

Commission invoked Section 25(5) of the RTI Act and issued an advisory to the respondent authority to maintain a robust and dynamic website for placing all data related to migrant workers therein as and when it is received from different Regional Heads.

Thus, it is necessary for the CPIO to put his best possible efforts to collect this data from different Regional Heads and place the same on their website immediately even if it is done in a piece meal manner.

An advisory is issued under Section 25(5) of the RTI Act to the Chief Labour Commissioner, to suo-moto upload maximum data as available with them in relation to the migrant workers stranded in relief camps or shelters organised by governments or at the workplace of their employers or generally clustered in any district and wherever possible cumulative numbers of the migrant workers and the names of the districts from where the data is collected should also be uploaded in compliance with Section 4 of the RTI Act, 2005, having regard to the peculiar circumstances prevalent in the country. [Venkatesh Nayak v. CPIO; Office of the Chief Labour Commissioner; CIC/OTCLC/C/2020/669711/03585; decided on 27-05-2020]

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), on 11.05.2020, wrote to all States/UTs to facilitate faster movement of stranded migrant workers to their native places, through buses and ‘Shramik’ special trains being run by the Government specifically for this purpose.

The communication highlighted the situation wherein migrant workers are walking on the roads and on railway tracks. All States/UTs were advised that in case they are found in such condition, they should be appropriately counselled, taken to nearby shelters and provided with food, water, etc. till they are facilitated to board the ‘Shramik’ special trains or buses to their native places.

However, instances of migrant workers walking on roads, railway tracks and travelling in trucks are still being reported from different parts of the country. In view of this, MHA has again written to all States/UTs to ensure that these migrant workers do not have to walk back home.

The communication states that Ministry of Railways is running more than 100 ‘Shramik’ special trains per day and is ready to arrange additional trains, as per requirement. People need to be made aware about these arrangements and counselled by State/UT governments to not travel on foot, when they can travel in buses/trains being specially run by the government to facilitate their journey.

Click here to see the Official Communication to the States/UTs


Ministry of Home Affairs

[Press Release dt. 15-05-2020]

[Source:PIB]


Image Credits: IndiaToday

COVID 19Hot Off The PressNews

In continuation of Ministry of Home Affairs’s Orders No.40-3/2020-DM-I(A) dated 29th March, 2020, 15th April, 2020 and 16th April 2020, and in exercise of the powers, conferred under Section 10(2)(|) of the Disaster Management Act, the undersigned, in his capacity as Chairperson, National Executive Committee, hereby issues a Standard Operating Protocol (SOP), for movement of stranded labour within the State/UT as Annexed herewith, to Ministries/ Departments of Government of India, State/Union Territory Governments and State /Union Territory Authorities with the directions for its strict implementation.

Standard Operating System (SOP) for movement of Stranded Labour

Due to the spread of COVlD-19 virus, workers employed in industry, agriculture, construction and other sectors have moved from their respective places of work, and are housed in relief/ shelter camps being run by State/ UT Governments. Since additional new activities, outside the containment zones, have been permitted in the consolidated revised guidelines with effect from 20th April 2020, these workers could be engaged in industrial, manufacturing, construction, farming and MNREGA works. In order to facilitate their movement within the State/UT, the following guidelines may be followed:

i. The migrant labourers currently residing in relief/shelter camps in States/UTs should be registered with the concerned local Authority and their skill mapping be carried out to find out their suitability for various kinds of works.

ii. In the event, that a group of migrants wish to return to their places of work, within the State where they are presently located, they would be screened and those who are asymptomatic would be transported to their respective places of work.

iii. It may be noted that there shall be no movement of labour outside the State/UT from where they are currently located.

iv. During the journey by bus, it would be ensured that safe social distancing norms are followed and the buses used for transport are sanitized as per the guidelines of the Health authorities.

v. The National Directives for COVID-19 Management issued under the consolidated revised guidelines dated 15th April 2020 shall be strictly followed.

vi. The local authorities shall also provide for food and water etc., for the duration of their journey.

Click the link below to access the Order:

ORDER


Ministry of Home Affairs

[Order dt. 19-04-2020]