The Madras High Court on Friday directed the Central Government as well as the State Government to file their response as well as action taken report on the issue of problems faced by the migrant workers.
A Habeas Corpus petition was filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying for issuance of Writ of Habeas Corpus, directing the DGP Tamil Nadu to produce the bodies of 400 migrant workers who have been illegally detained by the Superintendent of Police at Kupwad, Sangli District, Maharashtra.
The Additional Public Prosecutor said that as per the order of Tamil Nadu government 19 IAS officers have been appointed as nodal officers to co-ordinate the movement of stranded persons to and from the concerned States/Union Territories noted against their names and all the details such as landline numbers, Email ids and Mobile numbers of each officer were also published in order to enable the stranded persons to contact the nodal officers easily.
Acting upon the plea, the division bench comprising of Justice N. Kirubakaran & Justice R. Hemalatha, observed that “One cannot control his/her tears after seeing the pathetic condition of migrant labourers shown in the media for the past one month. It is nothing but a human tragedy. When the lock down was announced at the end of March 2020 most of the workers lost their jobs, no shelter is said to have been provided apart from lack of supply of adequate food. After waiting for a considerable time, they started migrating to their native states by foot. It is very unfortunate that those persons were neglected by all the authorities.”
The bench also said that “The heart breaking stories are reported in the print as well as visual media that millions of workers were compelled to start walking to their native States with their little children carrying all their belongings over their head, surviving on the food provided by good Samaritans, as no steps were taken by the Governments to help those migrant workers. It is also reported that some people starved to death due to hunger. 16 workers working in a steel factory in Julna, Maharashtra, who were sleeping on rail tracks while returning to Madhya Pradesh were crushed to death by a goods train on 8th May.”
The bench expressed anguish and said that “it is a pity to see the migrant labourers walking for days together to reach their native places and in the process, some of them had lost their lives due to accidents. The Government authorities of all the States should have extended their human services to those migrant labourers. India is a welfare State and Article 21 of the Constitution of India is paramount and safety and security and supply of food are important.”
The Madras High Court posed series of questions to the Central as well as State Government and directed them to answer the following queries:-
- Whether any data is being maintained by the Government of India regarding the details of migrant workers working in each State/Union Territories in India?
- If so, what is the number of migrant workers in each State/Union Territories in India and the details regarding their nativity?
- What is the number of migrant workers stranded in each State/Union Territories in India as on today?
- What are all the assistance provided to those migrant workers by the respective States as well as the Union Government?
- Whether those migrant workers are allowed to cross the State borders or prevented from crossing the borders and if they are prevented, whether they are provided with basic amenities such as food, shelter and medical assistance?
- How many migrant workers died on their way to the native States?
- To which States/Union Territories, the deceased workers belong to?
- What are the relief measures/compensation provided to the families of those migrant workers who lost their lives on their way back to their native States?
- How many migrant workers in each State/Union Territories have been evacuated from their working States to their native States through buses/trains throughout India?
- What are all the steps taken to transport the remaining people to their native States?
- Whether migration of people is one of the reasons for spread of Covid-19?
- Whether the Central Government has instructed the respective States/Union Territories to provide financial assistance, job opportunities in their native State/Union Territories for the labourers who migrated from other States?
Thus, the High Court has directed the respective Governments to file their response as well as action taken report by the next date of hearing which is 22nd of May, 2020.
-India Legal Bureau