Plea in SC seeking food, shelter of migrant workers

New Delhi:  The issue of exodus of migrant workers has reached the Supreme Court. A PIL has been filed in the apex court seeking direction to the local administration/ police authorities across India to immediately identify stranded migrant workers and shift them to the nearest government shelter homes with proper food, water, medicines and under medical supervision, in a dignified manner, until the coronavirus lockdown continues.

Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, the petitioner in the case, has urged the Centre to immediately redress the heart wrenching and inhuman plight of thousands of migrant workers families — women, small children, elders and differently-abled persons — walking on foot for hundreds of kilometers, from cities to their native villages: without food, water, transport, medicine or shelter, amid coronavirus crisis. The apex court is likely to take up this matter on March 30.

Srivastava said, “The entire world is witnessing an unprecedented health emergency due to deadly novel coronavirus or COVID-19”. He expressed solidarity with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement on March 24, calling for 21-day nationwide lockdown to contain the outbreak of coronavirus.

“Such Lockdown is very essential for controlling the spread of the deadly coronavirus… the biggest sufferers of this crisis situation are the poor, unregistered migrant workers, working in various big cities of India as rickshaw-pullers, ragpickers, construction workers, factory workers, house-maids, servants, unskilled and semi-skilled workers etc.,” said the petition.

The petition contended that migrant workers, amid this crisis, are jobless and stranded. As a consequence, they are struggling to make ends meet besides fighting social stigma of being labeled ‘virus’ carriers. Hence, they may face discrimination in their native villages.

The petitioner claimed that it is not safe to allow these migrant workers, who might be infected from deadly coronavirus, to mingle with their village populations, as it may exponentially contribute to the increase of the virus with fatal consequences.

The petitioner submitted on March 26, the Centre announced a packaged of Rs 1.75 Lakh crore under “Prime Minister Gareeb Kalyan scheme” to address the concerns of poor, migrant workers and those who need help in the present coronavirus crisis situation.

“However, the concern of the Petitioner is that the aforesaid migrant labourers, who are already travelling or stuck at different places, may not be able to avail the benefits of the aforesaid Scheme immediately. Such workers are travelling in groups and can be easily identified by the local administration, particularly on national and state highways,” said the petition.