The Supreme Court did well to reject petition to direct govt to pay wages to migrant workers, but govt must pay heed to their plight.
The Supreme Court has done well to uphold the principle of separation of powers by declining to direct the government to provide wages to migrant workers whose wage flow has stopped because of the Covid-19 lockdown decision. A PIL by eminent activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj had tried to make the case for this at the apex court. Indeed, the SC deemed it best not intervene in a manner that would have implications for the budgetary considerations of the Union government. It said that such calls have to be taken by the legislature—be it at the state level or at the Centre—and the executive that are trying their best to provide succour and relief to the migrant workers.
However, the government must pay close attention to what the PIL had to say on the condition of migrant workers, if it is to provide effective economic relief to these workers and their families, who depend on their meagre remittances. SC lawyer Prashant Bhushan noted that, as per a survey involving 11,000 migrant workers, 90% had not received any ration or cooked/packaged food from the government.
While the relief package announced by the Centre, as per Bhushan, caters for five lakh migrant workers, there were almost four crore migrant workers in the country. Given a significant number of migrant workers are not able to access even the basic support for survival such as food, drinking water, etc, for themselves, let alone ensuring this for their families—this is evident in their demand to be allowed to go to their homes, where they believe they can somehow manage to survive—providing them some kind of monetary support becomes crucial.