New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday passed an interim order directing states to ensure that no fare for travel either by train or bus is charged from the migrant workers stranded across the country. The SC further directed states to provide free food and water to the stranded migrants while they wait to start their journey and during it.
The SC bench, comprised on Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justices SK Kaul and MR Shah, raised concerns over non-compliance of its previous order asking states and Centre to ensure that no migrant has to walk on foot to get back to their home state.
On May 26, the top court had taken cognizance of the miseries of migrant workers and said there have been “inadequacies and certain lapses” by the Centre and the states and asked them to provide transport, food and shelter immediately free of cost.
On Thursday, the SC said that in absence of a clear system, several states have failed to provide proper facilities to migrants. Thus, it has passed interim orders in the matter:
10 key points of SC order on migrant crisis:
1) Migrant workers will not be asked to pay bus or train fare. States and Railways will share the fare as per their arrangement.
2) All migrants who are stranded shall be provided food by the concerned state while they wait for their turn to board trains or buses. The distribution points for these meals will be publicised in such a way that migrants are notified of it.
3) The originating state will provide food and water and thereafter, food to be provided by Railways. Receiving state shall give transport, food and meals from stations to their villages. Food and water will also have to be provided during bus journies.
4) States shall speed up registration of migrant workers and build help desks near places where they are stranded. Complete information needs to be publicised so that migrants are aware of this.
5) Whenever a migrant is found walking on the road they will be taken to the camps at the earliest and provided with facilities.
6) The SC bench has raised concern over the failure of states to provide these facilities to the migrants despite previous directives. The SC bench said that it was concerned with the miseries and difficulty of migrants trying to get to their native place. “Although there is no doubt that concerned state governments and UTs are taking steps, there are several lapses in the process of registration, transportation, providing food and shelter to the migrants.” the SC said.
7) During the hearing, the SC bench asked a barrage of questions from the Centre’s representative Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. The top court asked him to submit a timeline of transporting migrants back to their home states. Justice Bhushan said, “There needs to be a time in place which the migrant worker has to wait within which he will be transported and also be provided food and facilities in the interim.” The court made it clear that it wanted a uniform policy on this aspect.
“In India, the middleman will always be there. But we don’t want middlemen to interfere when it comes to payment of fares. There has to be a clear uniform policy on who will pay. If the mechanism is different for all states, then it will create confusion,” he said.
8) Attacking those ‘who approach SC against Centre’, Tushar Mehta claimed that such people were ‘prophets of doom’ for criticising the governments’ failure to deal with the migrant crisis. “Centre is doing a lot to prevent COVID-19 but there are prophets of doom in our country who only spread negativity, negativity, negativity. These armchair intellectuals do not recognize the nation’s effort,” Tushar Mehta said.
He went on to claim that persons writing to the Supreme Court asking it to take cognisance of the issue were “earning in crores”.
9) Tushar Mehta also challenged Kapil Sibbal when he rose up to speak on behalf of Delhi Shramik Sangathan and questioned his contribution towards solving the migrant crisis. “A lot,” Sibal said. After giving Mehta a reply, Sibal claimed that if migrants continued to be sent back home at the current rate then it will take at least three months to transport all of them.
Sibal said that India had around 4 crore migrant workers and by government data around 95 lakh were sent back home in a month. Thus, the government must come with a national policy to solve the migrant crisis, he said.
10) The next hearing on the matter will be held on June 5. Centre and states have been asked to submit a report on the steps taken by them to address the issues.