Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed Supreme Court today that there are around 50,000 NGOs who are working shoulder to shoulder with Governments to provide food and basic necessities to migrant workers, poor and destitute.
A bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice NV Ramanna, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice BR Gavai was hearing a petition filed by Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj seeking payment of minimum wages to migrant workers amid COVID-19 Lockdown.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for the petitioner said that it has been more than a month since the lockdown was imposed and there is a need to pay minimum wages to workers.
Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta interjecting Advocate Bhushan said “Who said that nobody is paid? Can’t your organization help the workers in any other way rather than filing PILs?”
Advocate Prashant Bhushan submitted that according to a survey, about 96% of the workers have not received rations from the government. Moreover the shelter homes are overcrowded which was a mockery of the system.
At this Solicitor General again questioned Bhushan as to “Why can’t petitioners help the workers? “
Replying to Solicitor General, Bhushan says “Petitioners have also gone around and distributed food. But do you want us to feed 15 lakh people?”
He further submitted that Government has recognized need for payment to these workers by asking private employers to pay their workers. However, most of the private employees themselves don’t have money to pay and about 89% of the worker had not received their wages since the lockdown.
SG, Mehta questioning the credibility of the source of survey said “Who told Mr Bhushan that no one is getting anything? there are direct benefit transfer schemes.”
The bench thereafter asked Bhushan to give suggestions for steps to be taken to help the workers.
Advocate Bhushan said that the government was in a better position to help the workers.
SG Mehta further submitted that there are helpline numbers for people in need of food where food will be reached to the needy in an hour of calling on the helpline number. Further there are thousands of NGO’s which are working with the government and are providing food and other necessities to the people in need.
–India Legal Bureau