New Delhi: Supreme Court hearing a matter relating to migrant labourers says, we are concerned with the difficulties of migrants trying to get to their native place. There are several lapses that we’ve noticed in the process of registration, transportation & provision of food & water to them.
The top Court says that those migrant workers found travelling on foot be immediately taken to shelters and provided food and all basic facilities.
Supreme Court’s Interim Direction calls for necessary details to be brought on record in reply regarding.
- “We are at present concerned with the miseries and difficulty of migrants trying to get to their native place
- “Although there is not doubt that concerned State Governments and UTs are taking steps, there are several lapses.
- “There are several lapses that we have noticed in the process of registration, transportation and providing food water to the migrants. Even after registration the migrants have to wait for a long time for their turns to come.”
- “Some of the states have not filed any replies to our notice. Due to the short time available at their disposal they could not file complete report. Some states have not even filed any reply. Shri Mehta also says he should be given some more time to file the response”
- “We believe that the centre and state governments require to be given some time to bring the steps taken by them on record.
- At present, looking at the miseries of the #migrantworkers, we are of the view that some Interim Directions need to be issued”
- Interim Directions being dictated by Top Court in case(s) pertaining to problems & miseries faced by #MigrantWorkers stranded across country.
- Railways to provide meal and water to Migrant Workers. Food and water to also be provided in buses.
- State shall oversee the registration of migrants & states to ensure that after registration, they are made to board transport as early as possible.
- No fare either by train or bus shall be charged for migrant workers. Railway fare to be shared by states.
- Migrantworkers shall be provided food by the concerned state and UT at places- To be publicised & notified for the period they are waiting for their turn to board a train or a bus.
- During train journey, originating states will provide meal & water.
- Those migrantworkers found walking on the roads, immediately be taken to shelters & provided food and all facilities.
- SG: We are already doing that. Your Lordship, this directions may encourage more people to move.
- Number of migrants awaiting transportation to native places;
- Plan for transportation;
- Mechanism of registration;
- Other [requisite] details.
The Supreme Court Of India is hearing its Suo Motu case pertaining to the problems & miseries of Migrant Labourers who are stranded in different parts of the country due to the lockdown.
Titled “In Re: Problems and Miseries of Migrant Workers” , Top Court had taken cognisance of the issue on May 26.
Additionally, Activist Medha Patekar plea praying for the provision of creating “uniform platform ticketing system” for migrants traveling via trains is being heard.
The plea also asks for basic necessities and financial schemes to equip migrants post lockdown.
Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, Indira Jaising, Sanjay Parikh, Colin Gonsalves appear on screen. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also before the bench to apprise the Court.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta : You lordships have issued notice to the central government.
Sr. Adv. Colin Gonsalves apprises the bench. Says there are a number of intervention applications listed calling for urgent directions. “We are a migrant workers association” he adds.
Senior Advocate Indira Jaising: “We want the intervenors heard today. We are seeking orders today due to urgency of the situation [pertaining to the #MigrantWorkers crises]
Bench- “If all of you speak together we will not be in a position to hear any of you”
“Formal order [pertaining to the problems and miseries of Migrant Workers will be passed in the Suo Motu Case. We will first hear the Government, then you.”
Supreme Court bench tells the Counsel appearing for intervenors in the matter.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta makes submissions: “We are immensely grateful to your Lordships for having taken cognisance of the plight of Migrant Workers issue Government(s) – center and states all have a responsible and August forum where we can point out steps that have taken place.”
“Some isolated incidents have taken place [pertaining to the plight of MigrantWorkers] but these are being shown repeatedly. I have filed preliminary report. Give me time to orally say what I’ve said.”
Initially, lockdown was announced and movement was stopped to control the spread of the COVID19 contagion from urban to rural areas. Now the situation has changed. 3700 special trains for transporting migrants have operated between May 1-27, says Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
“Centre and all state governments are working fully in cooperation across party lines. The total shifting of migrant is 1.85 lakh migrants per day through average train journey of 187 trains operating to transport Migrant Workers. 50 lakh migrants have already been shifted”
There are certain neighbouring states for which it was decided (by the Central Govt with cooperation of State Govts) that we will use road transport and a total of 47 lakh migrants have been shifted, taking the tally to 3.36 lac migrants being moved per day”
Bench asks the Solicitor General: “We need clarity with respect to who will pay the fare [for the movement of #MigrantWorkers]”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta: “Either the receiving state pays to the railways or originating state pays OR in some cases, the money is reimbursed”
“Food & drinking water provided by railways free of cost. The first meal is provided by State Govt. once the train starts, the food is provided by the rail min. If the journey is short then one meal and if it’s long then 2 meals”
“Indian railways has provided 84 lakh meals”. Migrant Workers reach their destination state, they are screened again. “This we are doing to ensure they don’t pass on the infection. Some states are even adopting mandatory quarantine before they go home”
“On uniform ticketing for Migrant Workers – it cannot be centralised at the central level. That’s why the railways decided that it will be left to the State Govts to decide.”
“UP and Bihar account for 80+ percentage of migrants. In UP they have adopted a system where when the migrants reach the station, they are encouraged to follow quarantine by offering them Rs. 1000 cash after the quarantine period is over. This is working very well.” “After quarantine [of #MigrantWorkers] is over, they are shifted through local transport buses to respective villages” SG Submits.
He adds that there are many states that do not have thousands of buses at their disposal thats why specialised trains are running.
Bench: The first problem is of transport of the migrant. They are waiting for weeks even after registration.
SG: During this period, there are certain essential functions of railways that cannot be compromised. Railways are working at optimum capacity.
Bench asks the Solicitor General: “Are these people that going to be transported, are being asked to shell out any money at any stage? With food surplus available with the FCI, is food being supplied to them while they wait for being transported back?”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta : They Migrant Workers are provided with food. Even Mr. Sibal’s state is providing food.
Bench: “We are asking you. Not Mr. Kapil Sibal.”
Bench: Food will have to come either from the originating state or the centre. Who is supplying [the #MigrantWorkers] food?
SG: “This is an unprecedented crisis and we are taking unprecedented measures”
Bench: “We need to ensure that till the time the #migrants are transported back to their homes, food and other essentials for them are taken care of.”
SC Bench: “Look into the future. How much time do you need to shift the #migrants to where they want to go? What will be monitoring mechanism to ensure food and basic necessities are taken care of? Its not that Govt. is doing Nothing, but some concrete steps have to be taken”
Bench: “Hard reality is that it’s a mechanism to tackle the migrantcrisis not there. Looking at number of migrants some further steps need to be taken.”
SG: “We have worked over night to file this report. Will file comprehensive report”
Bench asks the SG:
“how many days will be required to transport all the migrants back to their states?”
SG: “Aprpox 1 crore Migrants have already shifted. Several opted not to shift due to the reopening of activities. States would be in a better position to estimate that”
Bench: What about the migrants who are not living in shelter homes? Many of them are still living on rent?
SG: Sometimes limited instances have long lasting impact on the human mind. Reporting may not be fully accurate. Repeated reporting of isolated incident has a deep impact.
SG: In many cases there is local level instigation which is encouraging people to start walking. Those who started walking, when the state found them, the bus goes to them immediately and takes them to the nearest railway station.
Bench: They have already left their houses. So where is the food grain?
SG: Let me file my report and your Lordships will be fully satisfied.
Bench: “What is the estimation of time that is required to shift the migrants? What are the arrangements being made? What is the mechanism in place? Do the people know if they’ll be shifted on 5th day, 7th day or 10th day?”
SG: “I have understood the query and maybe the state governments can file a report”
Bench: But what is the normal time? If a migrant is identified, there must be some certainty that he will be shifted out within 1 week or 10 days at most? What is that time?
SG – I will gather that information and come back. The mechanism is working at state levels, so will have to get feedback from the states. I am not shifting responsibility. All states are working in tandem.
Bench: But then no state should have a right to reject [taking in #MigrantWorkers] that “no no don’t come OR we will not take you”
SG: There is no question about that. They are all citizens of India.
Bench: There have been instances where one state sends migrants but at the border State, it says that we are not accepting migrants. We need a policy.
Bench: Also, it’s not clear who will pay the fare. It’s creating a block. You still haven’t informed who is paying for the ticket of Migrant Workers ?
SG: Either the sending state or receiving state. They have interstate agreements.
Bench: What about states which reimburse? How is the migrant supposed to get reimbursement? Migrant won’t know which state has to pay or what transport is even available. There needs to be a uniform policy, else it will create confusion.
Bench: “How do you ensure that nobody asks them to pay or troubles them? What we are saying is that the #migrants should be least concerned with means of payment”
SG: “Let the states file their respective reports so that the bench can get the larger picture” “Unless lordships have the reports of the states, they won’t have entire picture. Stray incidents can happen”
Bench: There are some important issues that need to be addressed. The states and the Centre all need to understand that these are our concerns.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta :
- I have something more to say as an officer of the court. Have a complaint. There are some media reports and some people – two complaints I want to register.
- “There are prophets of doom who keep spreading Misinformation. Not showing courtesy to the Nation” “All these people writing on social media, giving interviews cannot even acknowledge what is being done.
- State governments and ministers are working over night. They don’t even have the patriotism to acknowledge that. Human race is facing most difficult challenge”
- “Centre is doing a lot to prevent COVID19 but there are Prophets of Doom in our country who only spread negativity, negativity, negativity. These arm chair intellectuals do not recognize the nation’s effort”
- “There was a photographer who went to Sudan in 1983. There was a panic stricken child. A vulture was waiting for the child to die. He photographed it and the photo was published in NYT and the photographer was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He committed suicide after 4 months” “a journalist had asked him – what happened to the child? He said I don’t know, I had to return home. Then the reporter asked him – how many vultures were there? He said one. The reporter said – no. There were two. One was holding the camera….”
- “Those who come before your Lordships, let them establish their credentials. They earn in crores. Have they spent a penny? People are feeding people on the streets. Had any of them cared to come out of their AC offices?” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submits vehemently
- “For these arm chair intellectuals, Lordships are neutral only if they abuse the executive. If a handful of people want to control the institution, then it will become an ADM Jabalpur incident. All these people wanting to intervene need to apply the vulture and child story.
- “The question to ask is, What have they contributed? Your lordships must ask them to file an affidavit on their contribution? Except for writing on social media, penning articles, giving interviews? People are working tirelessly. From the safai karamcharis to the PM”
- “Don’t let anyone use this platform to become a political platform. Let the impleadment applicant file affidavit on what their contribution is. See the letter which is doing the rounds”
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul : “People who have been part of the institution, if they believe they can run down the institution it is unfortunate. We have to go by our conscience.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta : “Some High Courts are running a parallel government. Senior Advocate PS Narsimha now arguing for the State of Uttar Pradesh: “18 lakh persons have been shifted and 1335 trains have been running. At every stage they have now established a mechanism”
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal begins arguing. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta: Let them argue only after the reports have been filed. this court cannot be made a political platform.
- Sibal to SG: It’s a humanitarian crisis. Nothing to do with politics. Don’t make it personal.
- SG: This forum should not become a political platform.
- Sibal: it’s a humanitarian crisis.
- SG: What’s your contribution in the crisis?
- Sibal: 4 Crores. That’s my contribution.
- Sibal – I as a counsel want to assist the court
- SG – then let the reports come
- Sibal – I am seeking indulgence of the Court. You can’t object to that. I am appearing for 2 organisations.
Bench to Sibal: We cannot have organisations argue at this point. Otherwise everyone will want to come here and argue. At a relevant stage we will seek your assistance.
Sibal: I’m not here for a political purpose. Will only take 15 minutes.
Kapil Sibal : Under the DMA, whenever there is a disaster, a national plan should be prepared by the NEC which is then approved by the DM authority presided over by the Prime minister. Minimum standards include shelter, food, drinking water, medical cover and sanitation..
“Till date no min. standards have been set up for any of the above categories. The problem has risen due to this. There has to be coordination between national, state and district plans. Responsibility has been shifted to state governments without minimums standard”
“This is the reason [non-implementation of minimum standards and lack of coordination] why people are walking. It has nothing to do with politics. People are walking away from shelters because the shelter homes are not upto standard.”
Sr. Adv. Kapil Sibal makes submissions in the Migrants issue
- No plan pointed out in the centre’s affidavit. Not on the state level or district level.
- If it’s going to take 3 months to transport rest of the people, what are the arrangements?
- Trains running on 3% capacity.
- There are people who don’t speak Hindi, there are migrants from other states who are not able to communicate. What food is being provided to them? Pulses is not the answer. Where will they cook all this?
- In the current situation, it will take 3 months for people to go.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta – They don’t wish to go. You don’t understand that ?
Sibal: How can you say that?
I said they were leaving on foot because of local instigation!
Bench: Don’t play blame game
Sibal: I’m pointing out statutory provisions. Not blame game. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta should tell us where is the notification under section 12 with minimum standards (Under DMA).