Supreme Court: No Travel Fare Will be Charged From the Migrants, They Are to Be Provided Food Free of Cost at All Times

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The Supreme Court on 28.05.2020, passed certain directions for the stranded migrant workers. The Court passed these orders after hearing the counsels appearing for the governments.

Facts of the Case

The Supreme Court on 26.05.2020, took Suo Motu cognizance of the miseries of the Migrants. Re: Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers, is the title for the matter listed for 28.05.2020. The Court had asked all the concerned governments to file their response.

Submissions by the Respondent

The Learned Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that from 01.05.2020, the migrant workers returned to their home. They travelled by the Shramik trains and buses.

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He claimed that 3700 Shramik trains operated from 01.05.2020 to 27.05.2020. Hence, 50 lacs migrant workers shifted by trains and 41 lac migrant workers transported by road.

He further submitted that food and water are provided to them at the following times:

a) It is provided by the originating states from where the migrant workers start their journey.
b) When the journey is undertaken by railways, the railways provide the meal.
c) When the migrant workers reach their destination, the receiving state takes care of the migrant workers. They drop them back home via buses.

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He stated that the state also take steps for quarantining those workers and necessary screening is also conducted. He also stated that the fare is borne either by the originating state or the receiving state as per their internal arrangement.

Furthermore, all the states have set up different relief camps. The migrant workers are provided with water, food, stay etc. Most importantly, the migrant workers who are staying in different places in the country, they are provided ration even without the ration card.

He submitted that all the migrant workers do not intend to go back to their native place. Some of them want to stay due to the opening up of so many industries. They are willing to work at different places to earn their livelihood. He further submitted that due to the short time available they could not file the complete report. Due to this, some states have not filed any response.

The learned senior counsel appearing for the State of U.P. submitted that the state has made an advance payment of Rs.51 crores. This amount is for bearing the fare of migrant workers who have come to their state. They are also providing Rs. 1000/- and a kit containing food and other necessary items to the migrant workers.

Submissions by the Intervenors

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The learned senior counsel Kapil Sibal submitted that least standards of relief provided under Section 12 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 are not been provided. He further submitted that there is no national or state plan as required under the Act.

The learned counsel Colin Gonsalves pointed out that there are several difficulties for registration. Most of the migrant workers do not have smartphones. Thus they are not able to follow so many technicalities required for the registration.

The learned counsel Indira Jaising submitted that unless there is an increase in the number of trains, the transportation of migrants will be difficult.

Court’s Decision

The bench comprising of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice M.R. Shah heard the Suo Motu Petition. The Court observed that there is no doubt that the governments are taking needful steps. But, there are several lapses on the ground.

The Court also noticed that even after registration, the migrant workers have to wait for a period starting from a week to a month for their turn.

Hence, the Court said that there are more issues which needs to be discussed after the governments file their detailed report. The Court, till then, found it necessary to pass certain directions:

  1. No fare charge of either train or by bus travel from any migrant workers.
  2. Stranded, migrant workers must claim food free of cost by the concerned government.
  3. In the beginning, the originating state will provide water and meal. During the journey, the railways will provide a meal and water.
  4. The state will simplify and speed up the process of registration. They should also provide a help desk for registration.
  5. After registration, the workers should board the train or bus at the earliest.
  6. Any migrant workers found walking will be immediately taken to the shelter homes.
  7. The receiving state will provide transport, health screening and other facilities free of cost.

The Court directed the governments to provide all necessary details about the number of migrant workers, the plan to transport them, the mechanism of registration and other details should be recorded.

Above all, the Court directed them to file an affidavit within a week. The matter is next listed on 05.06.2020.


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