Supreme Court orders Centre and States to immediately take care of Migrant needs

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A three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court ordered the Centre and the States to immediately provide transport, food and shelter free of cost to the stranded migrant workers.

The suo motu cognisance of media reports and representations from senior lawyers to step in to protect the fundamental rights of the migrant workers was taken by the judges in their chambers.

The court admitted that the “crisis is even continuing today with large sections of migrant labourers still stranded on roads, highways, railway stations and State borders”. Effective concentrated efforts were required to redeem the situation, it noted.

The Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan said in a written order, “Adequate transport arrangement, food and shelters are immediately to be provided by the Centre and the State governments free of cost. Although the Government of India and the State governments have taken measures yet there have been inadequacies and certain lapses”.

It asked Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta to assist the court and produce on record by day May 28 measures taken by the Centre so far to alleviate the migrants’ sufferings. It referred to newspaper and media reports on helpless migrants forced to travel thousands of miles on foot or bicycles during the lockdown. This was the time when this poor and deprived sections of society needed help from the Central and State governments to survive the harsh lockdown.

“Newspaper reports and other media reports have been continuously showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers walking on foot and cycling for long distances. They have also been complaining of not being provided food and water by the administration at places where they were stranded or in the way i.e. highways from which they proceeded on foot, cycles or other modes of transport,” the court stated.

It issued formal notice to the Centre, the States and the Union Territories and asked them to file their responses by May 28. It said the case was urgent.

“In the present situation of lockdown in the entire country, this section of society needs succour and help by governments concerned. Steps need to be taken by the Government of India, State Governments/Union Territories in this difficult situation to extend a helping hand to migrant labourers,” it emphasised.