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No fare to be charged from migrants, states to provide free food till they board train or bus: SC

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 28-05-2020 22:59 IST | Created: 28-05-2020 22:10 IST
No fare to be charged from migrants, states to provide free food till they board train or bus: SC
Representative image Image Credit: ANI

No train or bus fare will be charged from migrant labourers, the Supreme Court said on Thursday while directing states and union territories, where these workers are stranded due to the coronavirus lockdown, to provide them "food free of cost" till they board trains and buses. While passing a slew of interim directions "looking into the difficulties and miseries of migrant workers", the apex court directed that the states shall simplify and speed up the process of registration of migrant workers and set up help desks for registration at the places where they are stranded. The court also issued notices to the Centre and others on a separate plea of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on the plight of migrant workers and tagged that with the suo-motu case. The top court, which had on May 26 on its own taken cognisance of the miseries of migrant workers, said that states shall try to endeavour that after registration, the workers should be asked to board the train or bus at the earliest and complete information should be publicised to all concerned regarding the mode of transport. A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan directed that "those migrant workers who are found walking on the highways or roads shall be immediately taken care by the state/union territories concerned and they shall be provided the transport to the destination and all facilities including food and water be provided to those found walking on the road." The bench, also comprising justices S K Kaul and M R Shah, said that after the migrant workers reach their native places, the receiving state shall provide transport, health screening and other facilities free of cost.

"No fare either by train or by bus shall be charged from any migrant workers. The railway fare shall be shared by the states as per their arrangement as submitted by the Solicitor General and in no case any fare should be asked or charged from any migrant workers by the states and the Railways," the bench said in its 11-page order. It said that migrant workers, who are stranded at different places in the country, shall be provided food free of cost by the states and union territories concerned at "different places which shall be publicised and notified to them during the period they are waiting for their turn to board the train or bus". "Initially, as stated by the Solicitor General, the originating state shall provide water and meal and during the journey, the railways shall provide meal and water to the migrant workers and same facilities shall be extended when the migrant workers are transported by bus. The state shall take care of providing necessities - water and meal during the period of transportation either in the bus or in the camps on the way," it said. The court noted that certain interim directions were required to be issued to be followed by the states, union territories as well as the Centre to "redeem the immediate difficulties" of the migrant workers.

The bench, which heard the matter through video-conferencing for around two-and-a-half hours, has posted the matter for hearing on June 5 and asked the Centre and the states to file their affidavits on the issue within a week. "We are of the view that in the responses which are to be filed by the Central government and the state governments, all necessary details regarding the number of migrant workers, the plan to transport them to their destination, the mechanism of registration and other details should be brought on the record," the bench said. The bench, while noting down the submissions advanced by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and other advocates appearing in the matter, said that at present the apex court is concerned with the miseries and difficulties of migrant workers in going to their native place. "Although there is no doubt that the concerned state governments/Union Territories are taking steps to do the needful but there are several difficulties and lapses which are being noticed in the process of registration, transportation and in providing water, food, shelter to these migrant workers," the bench said.

The bench observed that even after registration, the migrant workers have to wait for a period which may go from a week to month for their turn to board the bus or train. "A large number of migrant workers are still seen proceeding on foot to different places," the bench said. It noted the submissions of Mehta who said an estimated time period and the plan for transportation of all stranded workers shall be intimated in the reply. Mehta also said that as and when the state government would send a request for train, the Railways would be ready to provide for transportation of stranded workers.

The solicitor general told the bench that the Centre and the states are taking all necessary steps to transport all migrant workers by train or bus and the authorities are of the view that no worker should undertake on-foot journey for their destination. He said that wherever the migrant workers are found walking on-foot, there are instructions to the state authorities to facilitate a bus or a vehicle for them to take to their onward journey or they are sent to relief camps and provided shelter and food. "We are of the view that both the Central government and the state governments/Union Territories are required to be given some reasonable time to bring the steps taken by them on the record," it said. The bench noted in its order that there are other issues also regarding the migrant workers like requirement of their food, employment after they reach their home and it would consider them after receiving the report from States.


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