The Supreme Court on Monday sought for Centre’s status report on steps taken regarding the plight of migrant workers during the 21-day national lockdown in view of COVID-19 outbreak.
A division bench comprising of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao was hearing the petitions filed separately by advocates Alakh Alok Srivastava and Rashmi Bansal seeking directions to the government for immediate redressal of “heart-wrenching and the inhuman plight of thousands of migrant workers” who are walking back to their native villages from the cities without basic essentials, in wake of nationwide lockdown.
“Since these thousand and lakhs of laborers are desperate to reach to their villages, they are not taking proper precautions and maintaining social distancing, thus increasing the threat of spreading the virus to villages as many of them may be infected with the virus and thus may have become the carrier of the disease” read the petition filed by advocate Rashmi Bansal.
The petition sought directions for the Centre and the state to ensure that the exodus migrant workers who are walking back to their native places are sanitized and disinfected, to reduce the possibility of spreading the novel Coronavirus.
On the other hand, the petition filed by advocate Alok Srivastava stated that “With the transportation services been suspended, several of such migrant workers are walking for kilometers to reach their villages. Many are unable to make it across state borders and thus are left stranded on roads, without food, water or shelter. There is large-scale human distress.” He further contended that there was a lack of coordination and co-operation between concerned authorities in managing the crisis.
The plea has also sought a direction to the authorities to provide food, water, medicines, and proper medical facilities to all the stranded migrant workers.
Subsequently, the Court stated that the Centre is already taking steps to address the issue and will file a comprehensive report by Tuesday i.e. 31 March on the measures taken to mitigate the looming humanitarian crisis. However, the bench said that it does not want to add confusion by passing directions at this point in time.
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Court that mass migration of workers from cities to their native places needs to stop in order to prevent the further transmission of COVID-19.
“This migration needs to be stopped because if there is transmission of the virus, it will be unstoppable,” stated SG Mehta.
The court while directing the Centre to file the status report by 31 March, has scheduled the next hearing for tomorrow.
On 24 March, while citing that social distancing is the only way out for the country in its decisive battle against the coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a nationwide lockdown for 21-days to combat the spread of pandemic disease.
In major cities, all construction sites have been shut for indefinite periods, which left the migrant workers with no work insisting them to leave for their native villages. Large groups of such workers had initially taken to foot to complete their long journeys. However, with different state governments springing to action, bus ferries have been arranged to bring these workers back.