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‘Taking unprecedented steps’: Centre to Supreme Court on migrant workers


Well-known member
The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it has sent 97 lakh migrant workers home since May 1, further underlining that it has taken “unprecedented steps” to meet this “unprecedented crisis”.

“This is an unprecedented crisis and we are taking unprecedented measures,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court during a hearing on migrant labourers’ situation amid Covid-19 lockdown.

The top court remarked that stranded migrant workers who want to travel back to their home states should not be stopped.

“When a migrant worker wishes to go to a state, no state can say that we will not take you,” a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan remarked while hearing a suo motu case initiated by it on migrant labourers.

The court also remarked that the government should work out a timeframe within which migrant workers desirous of returning to their home states can be transported. During the interim period, food and other facilities should be provided, Justice Ashok Bhushan said.

On Tuesday, the top court had issued notices to the Centre and the state governments, saying there have been “inadequacies and certain lapses” on their part in dealing with the migrant workers’ situation.

Media reports, the court order said, had been “continuously showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers” walking on-foot and cycles from long distances.

I am sorry the so-called "nationalists" are totally quite. I suppose they are only the rich aristocrats sitting in their armchair draped in Tricolor, or is it only saffron.

Janaki Jambunathan

Well-known member
The parties displaying Nationalism with capital N in their name and plagiarised tricolour as their party flag like INC ,NCP are part of the government but distancing from decision making - One leader meets the Governor - These jokers want to have the cake and eat it as well!

We need saffron war horses and front line solders who act all over India and not tin soldiers who collapse - unable to fight corona in a single state which has maximum immigrant labour and corona positive cases !


Well-known member
Ever since the lockdown began, stories of migrant workers have haunted the country. These stories of suffering and hardship have become the face of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in India’s megacities. There is an eerie similarity to many of them, highlighting an unequal society that has caused a humanitarian crisis to erupt during an unprecedented health crisis.

Earlier in the lockdown, one of us noticed two children who lived on the construction site next door. They said nothing and asked for nothing, but there was hunger and curiosity in their eyes. They were the children of Ranju, a migrant worker from Bihar, who worked at the construction site. The pandemic had brought work to a standstill for her and 15 other Bihari workers — no wages, little food, and no cooking gas. An economic package has since been laid out. Yet, labour distress continues.

Why did the migrant workers make the punishing journey from big cities back to the nondescript towns and villages of largely Bihar, and in Uttar Pradesh (UP)? The following narratives from Poorvanchal (eastern UP and Bihar) prove the need for a nuanced understanding of the precarity and anxieties of the migrant workforce and the need for State policies that take this into account. The two states account for 37% of the country’s inter-state migrants whose lives and livelihoods are now uncertain, at least for the near future. We spoke to dozens of workers and community leaders to understand their anxieties and experiences and policymakers to understand their responses.

Migrant workers across the country had similar worries. The absence of basic amenities, the inability to feed their children without ration cards of the particular geography they were locked down in, and the lack of a security net to protect themselves from Covid-19 made them desperate. Worse still, the persistent fear of eviction played on their minds through the day, while mosquitoes bit them through the night. There was no spare money to purchase soaps, sanitisers, or the most essential product of the times — masks. Their economic insecurities persist despite government action in recent weeks.

Where was the orange Army?


Well-known member
The Supreme Court (SC) has finally spoken on the “problems and miseries of migrant workers”. On Thursday, after extensively hearing the government (represented by solicitor general Tushar Mehta), a set of states, and others representing migrant workers and organisations, the court ordered that migrant workers must not be charged any fare for train or bus journeys; be provided with food while returning home in trains and buses; be provided transport as early as possible after they have registered with the states; and taken to the nearest shelter and provided food and other amenities if found on the road, stranded and walking. It has also asked the Centre to provide details on the number of migrants waiting to return home, the plans for transportation, and mechanisms for registration.

The plight of migrant workers, and their exodus back to their villages, represents one of the most serious humanitarian crises independent India has ever faced. The lockdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic left poor migrant workers without any income and food. Governments across the board fared poorly in providing an adequate security net or anticipating their desire to return home. Tens of thousands of workers began walking home, across the breadth of the country. Thirty-six days after the lockdown, the government decided on allowing their movement. The solicitor general’s figures suggest close to 10 million workers have got back home — but this has been a process marked by suffering and chaos. Migrants have had to wait for long before getting their turn; trains have gone off schedule or off course; millions of others remain stranded: many are still walking home. The human tragedy is enormous, exemplified by an image of a toddler trying to wake his mother, who died allegedly due to hunger, heat and dehydration (although some reports say she was already unwell), at a train station in Bihar.

This newspaper has been critical of the SC’s earlier reluctance to take up the issue of migrant workers. But belated as it may be, its intervention is positive. What was disturbing was Mr Mehta’s assertion that a few isolated incidents were being exaggerated by “prophets of doom” and workers were being instigated to walk home. Media reports and civil society interventions played a key part in exposing the scale of the crisis. His comment is also insulting to the agency of migrant workers. The government has, over the past month, made efforts to enable smooth movement. It must, along with states, abide by the SC’s directives and improve processes to get citizens back home. The SC should keep a strict eye on the executive to ensure a humane approach to the crisis.

Why must the SC pass this order? The center and most of the states involved are ruled by a "visionary" Party with a supermajority, and still, this is the plight of ordinary but POOR Indians.
The visionary leader only dreams, but the poor suffer.

Janaki Jambunathan

Well-known member
This order was necessitated because the sending state and receiving states felt they have no responsibility - politically distancing -claiming they are not decision makers though they are in the Government with not less than 12 cabinet berth. One meets the Governor- They seem to be in opposition even in states they rule - indeed an unprecedented step

Let the Congress first do so for the migrants in Punjab,Chattishgarh,and in Maharashtra what they are attempting through Supreme Court.The test for the pudding should lie in eating and not in gimmicks.Lakhs of migrant labourers in cities all over india are a glaring testimony to the misrule of Congress which had been in power for most of the years since independence.


Well-known member
The solicitor general is wrong on migrant workers, writes Barkha Dutt

I suppose, by the solicitor general (SG)’s definition, I am a prophet of doom. I was astonished to read some of his words before the Supreme Court. I was saddened (but relieved) that it took our judiciary this long to intervene on behalf of migrant workers.

I have spent more than 70 days, clocking 15,000 kilometres, travelling through 12 states, chronicling the despair of the workforce that has built our cities, powered our factories, run our kitchens, looked after our children — and was effectively orphaned by elite callousness and lack of political imagination. The Honourable SG, Tushar Mehta, might dismiss me as a “vulture”.

But millions of Indians would have been rendered invisible had a handful of people not doggedly decided to tell their story. We all appreciate that we are not administering a country as humongous and complex as India. We understand that many things are clear with the benefit of hindsight. And that enforcing the world’s biggest lockdown comes with many glitches.

But to attack those who have spoken up for the poor and documented their exodus, on the ground, often at risk to their own lives, is both peculiar and unfeeling.

I remember walking with a migrant worker, a contract labourer in an automobile company, right after the lockdown was first announced. He was seething with rage. “Can they not even arrange buses for us? Is it because we are poor?” He was going to walk hundreds of kilometres to Uttar Pradesh. “Only the poor will die. Not even one child of a politician will die,” he erupted.

To call the coronavirus a great equaliser turned out to be the greatest falsification of our time. From Mumbai to Delhi, from Telangana to Kerala, India’s poor have paid the price to keep our class safe. The lockdown has shielded the wealthy and the upper-middle class. The poorest citizen has been pushed to the periphery.

Being in the field for more than two months has numbed me to the noise of party politics. I find my eyes rolling at the Congress fighting with Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister Yogi Adityanath over buses or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) targeting the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. I don’t watch the yawn-inducing television debates that focus on these extraneous issues. Because out there, in the slum tenements of our country, or at the back of crowded trucks on which workers pay Rs 3,000 to get a narrow spot, all this is alien. And phrases such as social distancing only sound ironical.



Well-known member
Being in the field for more than two months has numbed me to the noise of party politics. I find my eyes rolling at the Congress fighting with Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister Yogi Adityanath over buses or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) targeting the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. I don’t watch the yawn-inducing television debates that focus on these extraneous issues. Because out there, in the slum tenements of our country, or at the back of crowded trucks on which workers pay Rs 3,000 to get a narrow spot, all this is alien. And phrases such as social distancing only sound ironical.

At least 92 million Indian households live in one room, sometimes six or eight in a space no larger than a cupboard. Work from home is a concept that means nothing. As entire universes are carried on wheels and the country’s largest exodus since Partition unfolds, some of our city-slicker slogans on hygiene and not-crowding are just new kinds of deracinated privilege. In Dharavi, Mumbai, where I spent a considerable number of days reporting, there are 8,000 common toilets for about eight hundred thousand people, which makes containing the virus an enormous challenge.

As this pandemic exposes the nation’s stratified, unequal society for what it is, some of these inequities are the legacy of decades, of course. And every government is complicit.

But the policy roller-coaster on migrant workers is inexplicable. On March 30, Mehta informed the court that there were “no migrants on the road.” But the truth (unequivocally captured on camera ) is that for nearly two months after that our workers remained on the road. Until one week ago, I met men, women and children on highway after highway, walking on foot, unwilling or unable to wait any longer for trains and buses. Or chasing trucks, with folded hands, begging for a ride, offering anything the driver wanted in exchange.

When the trains were first announced, I was excited to wave off a train from Surat as it took workers to Bihar. But even this was handled with needless lack of transparency and incorrect information. The Centre and states insist workers are not paying for train tickets. But they are. I was on board a train from Karnataka to Uttar Pradesh and every single worker I met had paid for his own ticket, taking loans, selling phones to do so. I interviewed the wife of Qazi Anwar who died on a train going home. They too had bought their own tickets, paying Rs 700 extra to the tout who helped them get these. The SG must know we would all like some good news. But hope cannot be the glossing over of reality or sugar-coating tragedy. I would call doing that an abdication of duty — both moral and professional.


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