Migrant workers wait at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border at Ghazipur on May 16. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
In an unprecedented move, India’s Supreme Court has again told the federal government to send all migrants home within the fixed deadline.
The apex court on June 19 said that it had ordered on June 9 that the process of transporting migrant workers to their native places should be completed in 15 days.
“The Supreme Court had to come into action after many civil society and non-governmental organizations working towards the welfare of the migrants informed the top court that the direction from it was not followed accurately,” Father Jaison Vadassery, secretary to the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India's commission for migrants, told UCA News.
He said the federal and state governments had failed miserably to handle the safe passage of migrant workers to their home states.
“Confusion among the central and state governments still prevails as many complain that the directions are not clear and coordination is minimal, leaving migrants on the road to defend themselves from hunger, diseases and uncertainty, which is very unfortunate,” said Father Vadassery.
States like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are the main sources of migrants, who are mostly employed in construction, factories, domestic work, textiles, brick kilns, transport and agriculture.
The apex court was very clear on June 9 that all migrants must reach home within 15 days.
But the court was informed by Indira Jaising, a senior lawyer, that the information sought from migrant workers was unnecessarily excessive.
Jaising said the court’s order had not been implemented. She added that no assurances have been given to migrant workers regarding their travel back home or to their places of work.
“Nothing is being done. No ads in vernacular languages, no publicizing of the orders by state governments for the benefit of migrant workers," she said.
The court asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to speak with all states and union territories to comply with the order and to ensure publicity is given.
On June 9, the apex court passed a slew of directions to provide benefits for returning migrant workers and directed state governments to submit schemes to generate employment for them and to withdraw cases against them for violating lockdown orders.
The national coronavirus lockdown that started on March 25 triggered a mass exodus of migrant workers from cities.
Activist Minakshi Singh told UCA News that the latest direction from the Supreme Court will create more confusion among migrant workers and state authorities.
“The northern state of Punjab has already brought back some of the migrant workers by bus and even used a chartered flight, so the new direction will create more confusion about whether to send them back or retain them,” Singh said.
“The Supreme Court order is in the right direction because the federal and state governments have failed to address the vast issue of migrant workers who are still stranded in many states helpless and worried about their future.”