Will continue efforts until all migrant workers are back home: Centre tells SC


New Delhi : The Central government on Thursday submitted before the Supreme Court that it will not stop its efforts until all the migrant labourers, stranded across the country amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, are sent back to their homes.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Central government, said that at least 3,700 special trains have been operated till May 27 and over 91 lakh migrants have been transported back home. He said that the Centre will not stop its efforts until everyone is sent back home.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and also comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice MR Shah was hearing the matter pertaining to the plight of the migrant workers, on which it had taken suo motu cognisance on Tuesday.

The apex court, after hearing the submissions, directed that the stranded migrant workers found walking home should immediately be taken to shelters and food and all other basic facilities should be provided to them.

It said that the migrant workers shall be provided food by the states at places, which shall be publicised and notified for the period that they are waiting for their turn.

Mehta said that Uttar Pradesh and Bihar account for more than 80 per cent of the migrants.

“The Centre decided that we must now shift the migrants. There is a total shifting of 1.85 lakh migrants per day through an average train journey of 187 trains. Transport from one state to another is done in coordination with the originating state,” Mehta told the court.

When the bench asked who was bearing the cost of the travel of migrant workers, Mehta said that a decision was taken that rail fare would be taken either by originating state or receiving state, but will not be charged from the migrants.

Mehta said that the originating state picks up migrants and brings them to railway stations, where they are screened and provided meals by the state.

“Once the train starts, the food is provided by the Railways. If the journey is short then one meal and if it’s long then two meals are provided. The state government provides buses to take them and drop them at their respective villages,” Mehta said.

They are quarantined as per the need arise, the SG said.

The court said that it’s not that the government is not doing anything but looking at the number of stranded migrants, some concrete steps need to be taken.
Mehta said that over 1 crore migrant workers have been shifted but added that there are also workers who did not want to shift and are looking for reopening of activities in search of work.

The apex court underlined the need of a policy saying that there have been instances where one state sends migrants but at the receiving state says we are not accepting migrants. To this, Mehta said that everything has been agreed on by the States and that there is no dispute.

There is no state which refuses entry to the migrants, he said.

Senior lawyer PS Narasimha, appearing for Uttar Pradesh, said that extraordinary efforts are taken by the State and 18 lakh persons have been shifted. He said that a mechanism has been established at every stage for the same.

He further said that apart from transporting 18 lakh persons, camps have been established, food is being provided in these camps.

Advocate Manish Kumar, appearing for Bihar, said that 10 lakh people have been transported via roads, and depending on the state of origin, these people are being placed in Centres where facilities are being provided by the state.
Appearing for Delhi Shramik Sangathan, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said that there is a Disaster Management Act, under which a national plan has to be prepared.

“There are people who don’t speak Hindi, there are migrants from other states who are not able to communicate. What food is being provided to them? Pulses are not the answer. Where will they cook all this?” Sibbal said. (ANI)