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PIL filed in SC for allowing migrants to return to native places

Last Updated : 18 April 2020, 14:01 IST

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A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court for allowing migrant workers across the country to return to their hometowns and villages after conducting necessary Covid-19 test.

The plea by activist Jagdeep S Chhokar and advocate Gaurav Jain also seeks a direction to the Centre to allow safe travel and transportation for such workers, who were amongst the worst affected category of people due to the lockdown.

Hundreds of such workers have come out on roads in Delhi, Mumbai and Surat and other parts of the country, feeling desperate on the announcement of the countrywide lockdown initially for three weeks from March 25 and subsequent extension till May 3.

The PIL filed by advocate Prashant Bhushan claimed that thousands of migrant workers, who didn't join mass exodus in the initial 21-day lockdown, were being harassed by local residents and also being beaten up at some places leading to "humiliation and inexplicable sufferings".

Chhokar, former Director-in charge IIM-Ahmedabad and founder of 'Association of Democratic Reforms' and Jain, in their joint plea, contended that the fundamental right of the migrant workers enshrined under Article 19(1)(d) (right to move freely throughout the territory of India) and Article 19(1)(e) of the Constitution (right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India) cannot be suspended for an indefinite period. Forcing these workers to stay away from their families and living in unpredictable and arduous conditions, were unreasonable restrictions upon their rights, they said.

They also contended the extension of lockdown was casting a disproportionate burden on migrant workers, stranded in cities of their migration as compared to those living with their own families at their own residences.

This was violative of Right to Equality under Article 14 and Right to Live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Referring to a status report filed by the Centre in a separate case, the petitioners said only 25 lakh migrant workers were being taken care of, while their actual number ranged from four to 12 crore.

The petition drawn by advocates Neha Rathi and Jatin Bharadwaj gave an example of Delhi's Anand Vihar Bus Terminal, Mumbai's Bandra and Surat incidents where a large number of workers came out on roads, for payment of salaries and permission to go back to their respective native places.

"In view of the extension of the national lockdown and also possibility of its further extension, similar incidences are very likely to unfold across the country. Such skirmishes will result in problems of public order, over and above the primary and challenging task of taking care of the public health," their plea said.

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Published 18 April 2020, 11:05 IST

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