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Supreme Court Directs the Governments to Provide Transport, Food and Shelter for Free of Cost

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On May 26, the Supreme Court took Suo Motu cognizance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers. The cognizance came in an order titled In Re: Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers.

Background

The Suo Moto cognisance comes after many activists appealed to this Court not to remain a mute spectator. Moreover, the activists insisted the Court not to accept affidavits by the Centre as it is but to question on the shortfalls.

The criticism has come after another bench of this Court refused to intervene in a plea. The aforementioned plea sought that the government should identify migrant workers, provide transport, food and shelter for them. The bench comprised of Justice L Nageswara Rao, Justice S.K Kaul and Justice B.R Gavai. Justice Rao had said,

“There are people walking and not stopping. How can we stop it?”

Recently, the Aurangabad train tragedy killed 16 migrant workers. They were walking along the rail lines to their native places and fell asleep on the tracks. In this matter, Justice Kaul remarked:

“How can anybody stop this when they sleep on railway tracks?”

Observation of the Court

The bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice S.K Kaul and Justice MR Shah has now taken cognizance of this case. The Court said that these migrant labourers are stranded in different parts of the country. The Courts pointed out that the newspaper and the media reports have been showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers. They are walking on-foot and cycles from long distances.

They have complained of not being provided food and water by the administration at places. This section of the society needs succour and help by the concerned Governments. Steps need to be taken by the Government of India, State Governments, and Union Territories in this challenging situation to extend helping hand to these migrant labourers.

This Court has received several letters and representations from different sections of society. In short, these letters highlight the problem of migrant labourers. The crises of migrant labourers are even continuing today. Large sections still stranded on roads, highways, railway stations and State borders.

Court’s Decision

The Court directed the provision of free and adequate transport, food and shelter arrangements to be made immediately by the Governments. Although the Governments have taken measures, yet there have been inadequacies and certain lapses. The Court said that concentrated practical efforts are required to redeem the situation.

The Courts issued notice to the Union of India and all States and Union Territories to submit their responses. The Court requested the learned Solicitor General to assist the Court. It ordered to bring in the notice of the Court all measures and steps taken by the Governments in the next hearing.

The Court has directed to list the matter for May 28.


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