The Supreme Court has asked the Centre and state governments to facilitate the transport of all stranded migrants to their native places within 15 days.
The Supreme Court on Friday rapped the Centre and states for delay in ferry migrants back home and handed them 15 days to transport all stranded migrants to their native places. The top court also asked the central and state governments to file a report apprising it about the measures taken for the welfare of these people.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the court that Indian Railways has operated 4228 trains till June 3 and over 1 crore people were transported to their native places. He said that whenever any state place puts a request with the Centre, “we provide the trains within 24 hours”.
Justice Bhushan asked how many workers were still stranded and what is the government’s estimate. Mehta replied that the Centre was continuously in touch with states and they can only give exact figures.
“We have sought information from them. We require a total of 171 trains now. States for administrative reasons want trains on specific dates. Karnataka wants on June 6, Kerala wants on June 8, etc.” he said, adding that Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were the two states that received maximum numbers of trains. While 1,695 trains terminated in Uttar Pradesh, .. ended in Bihar.
“We can grant 15 days time so that all states get back with their demands for trains. This has been going on for very long now,” Justice Ashok Bhushan said.
The court also said that there is a need to register all migrants specifically state and district wise. “Now every village should know how many migrants have come from where so that employment regeneration schemes are also started,” the court said.
“We need to know what kind of schemes are prevalent in the state?” it asked.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said that the registration system is not working. He said that migrants are getting frustrated and thus the migrants who want to go back are half than the actual numbers.
“We have filed a SWAN (Stranded Workers Action Network) report which shows how a non simplified system is posing a hurdle for migrants,” he said.
To this, Justice Bhushan asked, “What is the solution?” Gonsalves replied that in Tamil Nadu, contractors are registering the migrants with forms asking 28 questions to migrants. “But the questions are in English.This can be altered.”
Senior advocate Indira Jaising said that pre booking registration is creating problems and suggested that they should be treated like normal travellers. “The trains need to be announced a week before so that migrants can make use of it,” she said.
SG Mehta took strong objection to this and reiterated that intervenors should not be allowed to address the court especially those who did not contribute in COVID management. “I take strong objection to this. We have contributed perhaps more than anyone else,” Jaising responded.
Advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for Assam and Gujarat, said that the Centre has done sufficiently and no further detailed examination is required. “Situation has improved 100%. For Gujarat, out of 23 lakh, 2.5 lakh remain as they want to work. Over 20 lakh have already been transported,” he said.
Uttar Pradesh’s advocate P Narasimha said that the government never charged for travel and food for migrants. The state has received 21,69,000 workers from across India and over 5 lakh migrant workers were brought inside the state from Delhi itself.
“Those who came from outside need to be sent back. For this around 104 special trains were provided and over 1 lakh migrants were transported. Now only 3,206 migrant workers remain to be transported,” he said.
Advocate Ranjeet Kumar, representing the Bihar government, said that the state has received 28 lakh people from all across India. “We have 54 centres in 13 cities and 9 states and we have no information from any of these places about how many are still stranded,” he said.
Ranjeet said that the government was taking steps to provide employment. Nearly 10 lakh people’s skill mapping has been done and soon the employment will be taken care of.
Maharashtra’s counsel Rahul Chitnis said that there are only 38,000 migrants remaining and the state needs only one more. “Normal trains are also starting now,” Rahu said.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain appearing for Delhi said that the government has deposited Rs 9 crore with Railways for fares of migrant workers to travel to their home. The payment has been made in advance and the government complied with the orders.
Jain said that the government is not only providing food to migrants staying in the city but also for their train journey. He said that two lakh workers remain to be transported.
“There were 6 lakh registrations, some registrations were multiple and some have started working as construction started,” he told the court.
Tamil Nadu’s counsel AAG Jayanti Muth Raj sought time to file an affidavit about the remaining migrants who need to be transported back. West Bengal’s counsel said that another 6 lakh migrant workers are yet to reach.
Aman Lekhi, representing Madhya Pradesh, said only 25,000 migrants are yet to come back. Rajasthan said that it has received over 13 lakh migrants and the government is providing food and healthcare facilities to all. There are very few who want to leave Rajasthan at the moment.
Karnataka counsel said that the state government has facilitated the travel of about 3,67,000 migrants. One lakh people had registered for yesterday but 100 turned up.