A PIL has been filed in the Supreme court seeking directions to the Central and State governments to immediately identify moving/stranded and dislocated migrant workers and to make for them expeditious arrangements of transportation, temporary shelter, food and medical support in a dignified manner, till the National Lockdown owing to COVID-19 continuous to operate.
PIL is filed by Nachiketa Vajpayee, is a practicing advocate in Supreme court, whereas the respondents are the Union of India through Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health and Family Affairs, State of NCT of Delhi through Chief Secretary, State of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
It is Pertinent to mention, in a similar matter, the Supreme Court, held as under:
“The anxiety and fear of the migrants should be understood by the Police and other authorities. As directed by the Union of India, they should deal with the migrants in a humane manner. Considering the situation, we are of the opinion that the State Governments/Union Territories should endeavor to engage volunteers along with the police to supervise the welfare activities of the migrants. We expect those concerned to appreciate the trepidation of the poor men, women and children and treat them with kindness.”
It is mention in the petition that, the mass movement of the migrant workers is prevalent in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, wherein currently, the situation has gone extremely out of law and order. With each passing day there are numerous blatant violations of the precautionary norms as laid down by Respondent herein and thus, the said panic and exodus of the migrant workers needs to be curtailed expeditiously, failing which would amount to exponential spread of the dead virus.
The petitioner highlighted an incident, published on the website of “NDTV’ that migrant workers are in desperate need for work and survival. A 28-year old worker hailing from Maharashtra stated that “If the virus doesn’t get me, hunger will”.
As per a news article dated, published on the website, after the state-run hospital in Jehanabad — about 48 km from state capital Patna could not provide an ambulance, a woman in Bihar and her husband were compelled to carry the body of their three-year-old son on foot, from one hospital to another, until the child died. In the widely shared one-minute long heart-breaking video, the woman is seen screaming helplessly. Her son’s dead body is in her arms and her husband is standing beside her. As someone is heard offering help, the deceased child’s father says: “Now we don’t need an ambulance.”
It is mention that despite the notification and adjudication upon the present issue by Apex Court, the situation on ground level remains unchanged as the journey of a migrant worker back home is no less than a nightmare, due to broadly the following reasons, not being exhaustive in nature:
- Non-implementation of the relic and welfare directions issued by the Respondents herein due to lack of coordination between the State and District authorities;
- No financial help/support from the local authorities;
- No sustenance amenities such as food or shelter is being provided to the refugee camps are not yet set up in majority of cities due to which the migrants are compelled to sleep on roads and/or railway tracks, which leads to gruesome accidents and loss of lives;
- Lack of coordination between the local authorities and police departments in order to implement the welfare schemes for migrant workers;
- At places where there are night halt shelters, the area is inhuman and extremely congested/crammed, which might rather increase the spread of COVID-19 than safeguard their health;
- Panic amongst the workers due to false and fake information being given to them.
“Despite the best efforts of the Respondents herein, millions of persons, due to persistently prevailing unfortunate circumstances, are forced to suffer unimaginably inhuman hardships, leading thereby to continuous violations of their fundamental and most basic human rights. While surviving under unprecedented circumstances, millions of persons are facing extreme health hazards including deteriorating mental, physical and emotional health, extreme hunger, shelter less nights, halt less journeys on foot for thousands of kilometres, and even death, in the most undignified and gruesome manner, thereby calling for immediate intervention of this Hon’ble Court”, said the petition.
The petitioner also stated that till date thousands of migrant labourers are compelled to walk on foot with their families including elders, women, small children and differently abled, from different big cities of India to their respective native villages, without any food, water or shelter, amid the present Pandemic crisis, as they are not provided any assistance from the State and local authorities and have no finances to buy a transport ticket.
Therefore, the petitioner seeks directions to the Central and other State Governments in order to bring quick relief to the migrant workers and distressed labourers, while ensuring that the unregulated mass movements of such workers does not aid in the spread of COVID-19.
-India Legal Bureau