The lockdown sparked an exodus of tens of thousands of migrant workers, mainly daily wagers who lost their livelihoods, from the cities to their homes in the hinterland of India.
The Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday that the exodus of migrant workers from the cities to their hometowns will have to be stopped to ensure that it does not aggravate the threat posed by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta spelt out the Centre’s stand during a hearing on a petition filed by two lawyers, asking the court to issue directions to the central and state governments to address the threat arising from the mass migration following the three-week national lockdown imposed on March 25.
A message should not go out that the government is facilitating the migration, Mehta said. “Migration has to be stopped,”he said.
The lockdown sparked an exodus of tens of thousands of migrant workers, mainly daily wagers who lost their livelihoods, from the cities to their homes in the hinterland of India. In the absence of public transport, many started walking hundreds of kilometres across state borders, posing the threat that Covid-19 may spread to rural India.
The petition filed by advocates Rashmi Bansal and Anuj Gupta cited the possibility that many of the migrant workers may have been infected by the virus and become carriers of the disease. Desperate to return home, they are not maintaining social distancing, posing the threat that the disease may spread, they argued. The workers should not be allowed to travel without being sanitised/disinfected, the lawyers said.
The Supreme Court, after hearing the Centre and the petitioners throughvideo conferencing, indicated that it may not be inclined to interfere in the issue since it fell within the executive domain. The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde, remarked that it did not want to complicate the matter when the government was already dealing with it.
“I think government is taking certain measures. We do not want to complicate things by issuing orders on things the government is already doing”, the CJI said.
The court did not pass any order but allowed the central government to file a status report on the issue. The matter will be heard again on Tuesday.
The petitioners also said the people fleeing the cities should be counselled so that they didn’t panic and run away.
“This fear and panic is a bigger problem than this virus”, CJI Bobde remarked.
The court also sought a status report from the Centre on another petition filed by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava to address the plight of the migrant workers who are walking hundreds of kilometres to reach their hometowns. Srivastava prayed that such people should be identified and shifted to government shelter homes and provided food, water and medicines.
Source: Hindustan Times