New Delhi, May 26: Taking suo motu cognisance of the plight of lakhs of stranded migrant workers across the country, the Supreme Court on Tuesday pointed out the “inadequacies and lapses” in the handling of the crisis and issued notices to the Centre and state governments on steps taken to “redeem the situation.”

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M R Shah said there had been lapses on part of the Centre and state governments and directed immediate measures be taken to provide travel, food and shelter to the migrant labourers, The Indian Express reported. 

“We take suo motu cognizance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers, who had been stranded in different parts of the country. The newspaper reports and the media reports have been continuously showing the unfortunate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers walking on-foot and cycles from long distances,” the court’s order read.

Observing that the migrants’ crisis continues even today, the court in its order pulled up the Centre and the state governments and said, “In the present situation of lockdown in the entire country, this section of the society needs succor and help by the concerned governments, especially steps need to be taken by the Government of India, State governments/UTs in this difficult situation to extend a helping hand to these migrant labourers.”

The court has listed the matter for further hearing on May 28 and asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to assist it on the issue of migrant labourers.

The apex court’s criticism on the Centre’s and states’ approach to migrants comes after another bench had recently refused to intervene on a plea that sought the government to identify migrant workers, provide transport, food and shelter for them.

Barely 10 days ago, another bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, S K Kaul and B R Gavai had said, how the court could stop migrants from walking. “How can anybody stop this when they sleep on railway tracks?” Justice Kaul asked. Justice Rao said, “There are people walking and not stopping. How can we stop it?”

The PIL had referred to the death of 16 migrant workers in Maharashtra on May 8 — headed to their villages on foot, they were run over by a train while sleeping on rail tracks and had sought to draw the court’s attention to the death of eight workers in a road accident in Guna.

Millions of migrant workers have been in limbo ever since the country underwent its first 21-day lockdown on Match 24, in an attempt to break the coronavirus transmission chain. According to the 2011 census, the internal migrants account for 37 per cent (45.36 crore) of the country’s population.This includes inter-state migrants as well as migrants within each state, while the recent exodus is largely due to the movement of inter-state migrants.

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