Who is feeding migrant workers, paying for their travel, SC asks govt

Migrants collect food items, distributed by volunteers while sitting on a truck to reach their native villages in Uttar Pradesh, during the ongoing Covid-19 nationwide lockdown, in Jabalpur. Photo: PTI
The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the government to explain how the millions of migrant workers being transported to their home states are being fed and who is to paying for their travel.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, S K Kaul and M R Shah asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who argued for the government, said workers should not have to pay for their journeys back home.

Mehta submitted a preliminary report, which said 91 lakh migrant workers had taken to their states till Wednesday during a nationwide lockdown to contain the coronavirus. As many as 3,700 special trains carried workers between May 1-27, said the report.

"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 ten 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 Mehta.

"In our country, the middlemen will always be there. But we don't want middlemen to interfere when it comes to payment of fares.

There has to be a clear policy as to who will pay for their travel," it said, according to news agency PTI.

Millions of migrant workers were stranded across India after the nationwide lockdown was announced from March 25 at 4-hour notice to combat the spread of global pandemic, Coivd-19.

The Supreme Court on May 26 on its own took note of migrant workers' condition, saying the centre and the states had been inadequate in helping them. The court asked the governments to provide workers transport, food and shelter immediately for free.

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