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SC Orders Free Travel for Migrant Workers, Directs States to Give Them Food and Water

Image for representation. (Image: AP)

Image for representation. (Image: AP)

The court, which passed interim directions, said all stranded migrant workers should be provided food by concerned states and Union Territories at places to be publicised and notified to them for the period they are waiting for their turn to board a train or a bus.

The Supreme Court on Thursday directed that no train or bus fare be charged from migrant workers stranded across the country due to the coronavirus lockdown and that they be provided food and water.

The court, which passed interim directions, said all stranded migrant workers should be provided food by concerned states and Union Territories at places to be publicised and notified to them for the period they are waiting for their turn to board a train or a bus.

A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said the originating state should provide meals and water at the station while the Indian Railways should do the same during the journey. It said that food and water should also be provided to them during travel in buses.

The bench, also comprising Justices SK Kaul and MR Shah, directed that states oversee the registration of migrant workers and ensure they are made to board the train or bus at the earliest. The court said complete information in this regard should be publicised to everyone concerned.

The court observed it is concerned with the miseries and difficulties faced by migrants workers trying to return to their homes. It said although there is no doubt that concerned state governments and UTs are taking steps, several lapses have been issued in the process of registration, transportation and providing food water to the migrants. The court asked the Centre and the states to file their affidavits on the crisis within a week and posted the matter for further hearing on June 5.

As the Centre submitted that 91 lakh migrants have been transported to their native states by 3,700 'Shramik Special' trains and buses so far, the court posed searching queries to the Centre and state governments over people facing endless wait for seats in home-bound trains or buses, the confusion over payment of fares and the alleged lack of food and shelter for them.

"What is the normal time? If a migrant is identified, there must be some certainty that he will be shifted out within one week or 10 days at most? What is that time? There had been instances where one state sends migrants but at the border another state says we are not accepting the migrants. We need a policy on this," the court told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. "There has to be a clear policy as to who will pay for their travel."

In its 11-page order, the court said certain interim directions were required to be issued to be followed by the states, union territories as well as the Centre to "redeem the immediate difficulties" of the migrant workers.

(With inputs from PTI)