COVID-19 second wave | SC seeks details of welfare measures for migrant workers

Migrant workers leave for their native places during the weekend lockdown, amid surge in COVID-19 cases in Thiruvananthapuram. File photo   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed concern over the health and welfare of migrant labourers during the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic even as several States have announced lockdowns.

A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M.R. Shah urged the government to consider the “harsh realities” facing the migrant poor and sought the details of welfare programmes in place.

Also read: Migrant workers vulnerable again, say activists

“How will migrants survive with no money or work?” the court asked.

The Bench said it will publish its order later in the day.

The hearing was based on an application filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan seeking urgent intervention from the Supreme Court to ensure food security, dry rations, cash transfer and transport facility for migrant labourers at nominal rates during the second wave.

The plea filed by activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar said the chaos, panic and economic crisis which plagued labourers in the months of lockdown last year were raising their heads again.

“The problems and miseries faced by migrant workers during the lockdown in 2020 have persisted over the past year due to the continued economic distress and now have got aggravated on account of fresh restrictions, curfews and lockdowns being imposed in many States to control the spread of COVID,” the application said.

It said there is an overwhelming sense of opacity in governance and the food security programmes available were only for those with ration cards. The application said starvation for migrant labourers amid the spiralling health crisis was quickly dawning into reality.

The plea has urged the court to direct the Centre to resume its scheme of providing dry rations under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme to all eight crore migrant labourers not covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) or State PDS cards and were identified under the said scheme last year.

“Migrant workers are again bearing the brunt of these policies and urgent intervention is required to address the following issues – loss of livelihood and means of income on account of the restrictions and lockdowns resulting in people being unable to pay for basic needs like food, rent, etc, and lack of proper arrangement for safe and free travel back to their hometowns and villages when lockdowns are announced,” the application said.

Mr. Bhushan argued that “new restrictions and curfews/lockdowns have caused immense distress in the lives of the economically vulnerable sections of society, especially migrant workers”.

Across several States, migrant workers, having lost their means of livelihood on account of the restrictions imposed, were unable to sustain themselves and there was largescale distress migration back to their hometowns.

“No proper relief measures to mitigate the economic hardships being faced by migrant workers have been announced when the lockdowns are put in place, leading to a precarious situation. The loss of livelihood and means of income is causing food insecurity among migrant workers and their families,” the plea has said.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 4:45:53 AM |

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