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Provide food, fare, and makeshift accommodation to stranded migrants: Supreme Court

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on May 29, 2020

Migrants, who have arrived from Surat in Gujarat, wait at Prayagraj Junction for their registration to board buses to reach their native places   -  PTI

The Supreme Court has held that the Railways have to provide trains to State governments as and when they request and will not charge migrants any fare, NDTV reported.

The decision comes at a time when the coronavirus-induced lockdown has unleashed one of the biggest crisis for migrant labourers across the country.

The apex court also said the Railways will have to arrange for food and water for the migrants as long as they are on the trains.

The States, the three-judge bench said, will be in charge of overseeing the registration of migrant workers and ensure that they board a train or bus. They should also provide food and water to migrant workers who are stranded in the state.

“Migrant workers found walking home should immediately be taken to shelters and provided food and all facilities. Complete information should be publicised to all concerned,” the judges added.

The court also said that no fare for train or bus should be charged from the migrant workers. The fare will be shared by the States.

Veteran lawyers Kapil Sibal and Indira Jaisingh pointed out that the Railways was only operating at 3 per cent capacity and at the current rate, will take 3 months to transport all migrants.

“According to 1991 census, the migrant labour was more than 3 crore. By 2020, the number should be about 4 crore. If they have transported 91 lakh people in 27 days, it should take another 3 months to transport the rest,” Sibal contended.

The court — which had initially asked a series of hard questions to the Centre regarding food, funding, shelter and the entire logistics of transportation — said the major problem is the “transportation of migrants and providing them food.”

“The first problem is of transport. They are waiting for weeks even after registration. Are these people being asked to shell out any money at any stage? How is the state paying,” the judges questioned.

“We accept that it’s not possible to transport everyone at the same time. But food and shelter must be given till they can get transport,” the court said.

The Modi-led Centre also clarified that it has not been paying for migrant labourers’ Shramik Express tickets, telling the Supreme Court that the bill is being footed by States, The Print reported.

Published on May 29, 2020

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