Seeking replies from the Centre, and the governments of Delhi, UP and Haryana, on “measures by which they shall ameliorate miseries of stranded migrant labourers” during the Covid lockdown in the National Capital Region due to the second wave, the Supreme Court Thursday ordered a series of steps for their welfare — from transport to home districts and food to dry rations without insisting on identity cards.
The court also issued notice to Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bihar, asking them to provide details of measures they propose to take in this regard.
“Dry ration to migrant workers in National Capital Region under Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme or any other scheme be provided by the Union of India, NCT of Delhi, State of UP and State of Haryana utilising the Public Distribution System prevalent in each state with effect from May 2021,” a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah ordered.
“While providing dry ration, the authorities of the States shall not insist on an identity card for those migrant labourers, who do not possess (any) for the time being…On self-declaration made by the stranded migrant labourers, dry ration be given to them,” it said.
The bench also asked the NCT of Delhi, UP and Haryana to “ensure that adequate transport is provided to stranded migrant labourers (in NCR) who want to return to their home…either by road or train”.
The court also directed the three states to open community kitchens at well-advertised places in NCR to provide two meals a day for stranded labourers and their families.
The order came on an application filed in a pending suo motu matter in which the court, while taking note of the problems of migrant labourers during the nationwide lockdown last year, had come out with a series of directions to address these issues.
The application pointed out that in view of the fresh curfew and lockdowns in the NCT, UP and Haryana following the second Covid wave, there has been loss of livelihood of migrant labourers who have started to move to their home districts fearing more misery.
It said that private bus owners were charging exorbitant fare ranging from 4-5 times the normal fare from migrant labourers.
The plea pointed out that last year the Centre had announced Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme where, for the period of May and June 2020, 5 kg of food grains and one kg of pulses were given to migrant labourers not covered by the Public Distribution System under the National Food Security Act and the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana.
It prayed that the Centre and states “immediately” put in place mechanisms to provide rations to all migrant workers and their families who have been excluded from the National Food Security Act and PDS programmes. It also wanted open kitchens to be opened for the labourers, and transport facilities.
Hearing the matter earlier, the court had asked states and Union Territories to keep a record of migrant labourers who have returned, including details about their skills, previous employment, etc., so that the administration can extend help. They were also directed to explore avenues to provide employment.
The court had sought affidavits from the states and UTs on the issue but found the responses to be inadequate. On Thursday, the bench gave them ten more days to file specific responses and fixed the matter for hearing next on May 24.
Read Order here: