SC tells government not to charge migrant workers fares for travel in trains or buses
The Supreme Court has directed the government to not charge any travel fare from migrants and provide food and water to those stranded as they awaited their turn to be transported home.
In an interim direction, a three-judge bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice M.R. Shah, who took suo motu cognisance of the miseries faced by stranded migrants, put the onus of providing food and water to the originating state and the railways.
The court said that if migrants were found to be walking on the road, they should be taken to camps and provided facilities. It said food and water should also be provided to them for travel in buses.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that 97 lakh migrants were transported back to their homes since May 1. Mehta was briefing the bench that was conducting proceedings virtually to hear about the “problems and miseries of migrant labourers”.
The government claimed it had run 3,700 special trains to send back 50 lakh migrants. Mehta said about 1.85 lakh migrants were transported each day.
The apex court, which heard the matter for around two-and-a-half hours, said that complete information (about facilities to migrants) be publicised to all concerned.
The court observed that it was presently concerned with the miseries and difficulty faced by the migrants workers who are trying to get to their native places.
It said though there was no doubt that the concerned state governments and UTs were taking steps, several lapses have been noticed in the process of registration, transportation and providing food, water to the migrants.
The bench noted in its order that even after registration for travel, the migrants have to wait for a long time for their turns to come.
The bench noted submissions by Mehta, who said instructions has been given to state governments to facilitate a bus or vehicle if any migrant worker was seen walking on foot.
The bench further directed that migrant workers found walking on the roads should immediately be taken to shelters and provided food and other necessary facilities.
The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on June 5.
During the hearing, the bench directed some searching questions to the Centre on the plight of migrant workers.
“How long will they have to wait before going to their native places?”
“Who will pay for their travel and provide them food and shelter?”
The bench also asked the solicitor general about the confusion over payment of travel fares and said that migrants should not made to pay for their journey back home.
'What is the normal time? If a migrant is identified, there must be some certainty that he will be shifted out within one week or ten days at most? What is that time? There had been instances where one state sends migrants but at the border, another state says ‘we are not accepting the migrants’. We need a policy on this,' the bench told Mehta.
In the first week of May, another Supreme Court bench that included two of the three judges that heard the matter on Thursday, had refused to intervene in the matter of migrants, disposing of a plea seeking directions to the railways to take back workers and to states to provide free travel.
The bench had said then that the government was taking appropriate steps and the relief claimed was already granted by the government.