The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed governments both at the Centre and in states to send all stranded migrant workers to their native places within 15 days. The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Mukeshkumar Rasikbhai Shah also directed the Centre to make arrangements for additional trains within 24 hours of states making the demand for sending the migrant workers to their native places.
The top court, which faced considerable criticism for turning a blind eye to one of the worst humanitarian crises faced by Indian in recent times, directed the governments to formulate employment schemes after assessing their skills. It also asked authorities to consider withdrawing all cases against migrant workers for alleged violation of lockdown norms under the Disaster Management Act.
The bench has listed the matter for further hearing in July.
Days after refusing to intervene, the Supreme Court had last month finally decided to take notice of the plight of migrant workers, who were being forced to go through unspeakable misery due to an unplanned lockdown announced by the Indian government. Taking suo motu cognisance of the full-blown humanitarian crisis, the court had conceded that there had indeed been ‘inadequacies and certain lapses’ by the Centre and the states.
The Indian government took many weeks before deploying trains to transport some of the migrant workers. This came in the wake of at least 17 migrant workers’ death after they were run over by a speeding train in Maharashtra. They were walking back to their native places in Madhya Pradesh but had slept on a train track because of exhaustion.
Days later, 24 migrant workers died in Uttar Pradesh after the truck carrying them met with an accident. The truck was also carrying building materials.
The Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao, SK Kaul and BR Gavai had earlier refused to entertain a plea, which sought directions that District Magistrates identify, shelter, feed and provide free transport to stranded migrant workers or those on the move. The Bench, according to Indian Express, had wondered how the court could stop migrants from walking. Justice Kaul, in particular, had asked, “How can anybody stop this when they sleep on railway tracks?” Justice Rao, for his part, had said, “There are people walking and not stopping. How can we stop it?”