SC orders free food for stranded workers, no fare for journey

Last Updated 28 May 2020, 12:01 IST

Faced with criticism of being indifferent to the plight of migrant workers, the Supreme Court on Thursday (May 28) got to cracking its whip on lapses by the Centre and States, as it directed for providing the stranded labourers with food by the concerned state government, till they returned to native places.

It also directed that no fare of either train or bus can be charged from the migrant workers, by ordering the States to share the money.

"All stranded workers shall be provided food by the concerned state, till their turn for return to native places," a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M R Shah said.

"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 bench said.

Acting Suo Motu on the plight of workers, the court ordered that originating state to provide meal and water at the station. Railways would have to provide meals and water to migrant workers during the journey.

It also told the State to oversee the registration of migrant workers and their boarding of trains. SC also directed that the migrant workers found walking on the roads, should immediately be taken to shelter homes and provided with food and other facilities.

It further directed the States to speed up registration of migrant workers and build help desks to facilitate boarding buses or trains at an early date.

The Supreme Court said complete information needs to be publicised to make migrants aware of it. The court gave the Centre and States time till Friday next to provide a complete detailed response on steps taken by them.

The SC's order came on Suo Motu matter based on problems and miseries faced by migrant workers, after the nationwide lockdown was imposed since March 25.

Though Solicitor General Tushar Mehta tried to convince the court of steps taken by the Centre and States, the bench decided to issue directions to address the "miseries and difficulty of migrants trying to get to their native place".

"Even after registration migrants have to wait for their turn to board the train or bus. A large number of migrants are still proceeding by foot," the bench said.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, AM Singhvi, Indira Jaising, Colin Gonsalves, P S Narasimha, and other made interventions into the hearing.

(Published 28 May 2020, 12:01 IST)

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