Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala approached the Supreme Court on Wednesday for permission to intervene in the suo motu case on migrant workers’ crisis amid the lockdown.
Mr. Surjewala, represented by advocate Sunil Fernandes, said the government, first of all, did not have a nationwide action plan to tally the exact number of migrant labourers stranded in various parts of the country without basics such as food, water, shelter and transport to return to their native villages.
The Congress leader said the government needed to work with the grassroots administrative mechanism, including the district and panchayats, to create lists accurately identifying stranded workers.
The intervention application suggested that the Centre should immediately set up reception centres and facilitation centres at district and village levels for receiving labourers and facilitating their further travel to their native districts/villages.
On the basis of information being provided by the labourers, their hardships and the facilities/actions that helped them during their journey, the Centre should formulate a nationwide action plan to address the issues of stranded migrants.
The application highlighted how migrant workers and their families were exposed to starvation due to the “sporadic access” to food.
It said things had failed so badly that they were largely dependent on the largesse of private individuals for food, medicine and shelter.
It said the “certain financial reliefs” announced by the government for migrant labourers should be implemented on an “urgent and immediate basis and a public announcement detailing the reliefs with timelines and step-wise procedure of release should be shared with the public and migrants”.
“In view of the fact that the stranded migrants have been uprooted from places of gainful employment, the government of India should formulate urgent and immediate schemes for providing gainful employment to the migrant labourers, with additional and specific schemes, which take into consideration the education of the migrant labourers’ children and the general well-being of their family members,” the application said.
Mr. Surjewala said stranded workers were unable to approach the government in their dire circumstances, so it was the obligation of the government to reach out to them and make them aware of the welfare/benefits provided for them during the lockdown.
A Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan is scheduled to hear the suo motu case on May 28. The court has admitted that government measures as regards migrant workers suffer from “inadequacies and certain lapses”.