New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Thursday said that it will direct the Centre and the states to set up community kitchens for migrant workers.
The authorities will also be asked to ensure reasonable transport fares for those labourers wishing to travel back home, it added.
A Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah made the observation while hearing an urgent petition seeking assurance that migrant workers get food security and are able to travel back to their homes at minimal cost. It said its mulling to ask the Delhi NCR to set up community kitchens for them.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the applicants, batted for inclusion of migrants in the Atmanirbhar scheme so that eight crore identified migrant workers can be given rations without needing to produce ration cards. The migrants have lost their jobs and are left with no money to look after themselves, he added.
Opposing the plea, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta requested the Court to wait for the states responses before reaching to a conclusion.
“Now we are fighting with pandemic, so let us fight with the pandemic and not with fringe elements. Unlike last lockdown, the construction work is going on and industrial work is going on. Last time, everything was closed. All state governments are alive to the situation. Except two or three individuals, it cannot be said that all state governments are not irresponsible,” said SG Mehta.
The Bench, however, said the directions will be based on the fact that the migrants were being charged excessively to commute back home.
Calling for strict measures for the welfare of the migrants, the applicants said that even though Covid-19 curfews and lockdowns have been imposed more cautiously this year, they have offered little welfare support to working classes and migrants whose livelihoods are at sea once again.
This has led to second exodus of migrant workers who are swarming train and bus terminals in urban centres to rush back home, the application stated.
The applicants sought court’s directions to the Central and state governments to provide free cooked food through community kitchens, hunger relief and feeding centres, at places where they all assemble.
Besides, the governments should jointly transfer money equal to their minimum wages to all the migrants during the lockdown, they urged.
“The new restrictions and curfews/lockdowns imposed by governments to curb the spread of the second wave of COVID-l9 has 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, are unable to sustain themselves and there is large scale distress migration back to their hometowns,” the application stated.