New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the Centre and states are taking necessary steps for relief to migrant workers and disposed of a plea seeking free of cost travel for homebound workers.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai, which took up the matter through video conferencing, said “As all necessary steps are being taken by Centre and states, we do not see any purpose in keeping this writ petition pending.” The apex court disposed of the petition.
The observation from the top court came while hearing a PIL filed by Jagdeep S Chhokar, former director in-charge of IIM Ahmedabad and lawyer Gaurav Jain, who moved the court seeking direction to authorities to allow migrant workers to return home without paying any fare after the coronavirus test. The bench noted that as per reports 85 per cent cost is being borne by the Centre. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners, said even 15 per cent is too expensive for the migrants.
The bench noted the relief claimed by the petitioner has already been granted by the government and it is difficult to consider any prayer not included in the petition.
Bhushan cited a circular, which said that the state where the workers are and their native state, have to agree for their travel, and submitted before court the government should ease the movement of workers, and not put such restrictions. After both states agree then the migrant workers are being sent to their native places, argued Bhushan.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said the government is following all the protocol and arrangements have been made for all the necessary help to the migrant workers.
Mehta said the ground situation is being carefully monitored by the government, for example when a migrant worker goes back to his native place he or she has to be placed under quarantine, therefore a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is already in place. “Government is proactive as we are concerned with the migrant worker and my humble submission is that this should be left to the government, and this micro-management should not be allowed”, Mehta contended before the bench.
The petitioners filed a supplementary affidavit, claiming it must be made clear that the railways and the states would not be charging the migrant workers for the train and bus travel being arranged for them.
“Migrants are being required to pay around Rs 800 as train fares and the same is highly unjustified. It has been reported that the Indian Railways is actually hiking its fare by 50 rupees per passenger,” said the affidavit.
The affidavit also claimed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a letter to Chief Secretaries/Administrators clarified about the movement of distressed stranded persons. “But shockingly, the MHA has given a very narrow definition of stranded migrants by including only those who had moved from their native places just before the lockdown period but could not return to their native places on account of restrictions placed on movement of persons and vehicles as part of lockdown measures.”