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The movement of the stranded migrants should not be a mere formality "in utter disregard to their rights" but done in the most humane way possible while conforming to social distancing norms, states the intervention plea
Alumni of the National Law School of India (NLSIU), Bangalore who had launched the NLS Migrant Mazdoor Program to aid the return of migrant labourers stranded amid the COVID-19 Lockdown have moved an plea to intervene in the suo motu case registered by the Supreme Court over the migrant crisis.
The initiatives launched by the Programme include the "Aahan Vaahan" project to transport stranded migrants by flight to their home States. The application notes that the option of flights were chosen as the overall expenditure of transporting migrant workers by private buses was only marginally lower.
Another initiative launched was the “Serving the Shramiks” project to provide migrant passengers of Shramik trains with basic amenities like food and water.
The application notes that there was no prompt and timely information about the process of returning home through the Shramik Special Trains or Interstate buses plied by the Government.
The project organisers were also informed that migrant worker on board the Shramik trains have were not provided meals or drinking water.
Further, the applicant has submitted that the alumni are now also discussing the possibility of booking special trains for stranded migrant workers.
In this backdrop, the NLS Migrant Mazdoor Program has urged the Supreme Court to allow it to intervene in the suo motu migrant crisis case, so that it can assist by placing suggestions to effectively aid distressed migrants.
To this end, the application filed by the Applicant's representative Ashwin Ramanathan through Advocate Mithu Jain has proposed the following measures:
The Central Government should be directed to pay the fare and the State Government should be at liberty to seek as many Shramik Trains as is necessary to transport the stranded migrants, without having to face financial difficulties. The suggestion has been to alleviate the concerns of the migrants when it comes to payment of fare and train schedules
The Indian Railways should ensure that there is an adequate supply of basic amenities like food, water and sanitisation on the Shramik Trains. The movement of the stranded migrants should not be a mere formality "in utter disregard to their rights" but instead done in the most humane way possible while conforming to the norms of social distancing. The cost for providing such amenities should be borne by the Indian Railways vide the Central Government and ought to be monitored by the Railway Magistrates currently deployed.
The ordinary schedule of Railways, as it operated before the national lockdown, should be brought back to effect. This way it is not only ensured that there trains as per a prescribed schedule, but the options available to migrant workers are known to them in a pre-planned manner without any last-minute confusion or chaos.
All such migrants who are either choosing to go back to their native place or to travel back to their place of employment after being unemployed for more than three months should not be charged any fare for the travel.
The Aviation Turbine Fuel which contributes significantly to the transport costs of flights, along with other such cess levied, should be appropriately waived/subsidized by the concerned authority. A suitable mechanism should be employed in this regard for all relief flights involved in the evacuation of the stranded migrants, which will reduce the financial burden of transporting migrants. It should be ensured that this benefit is passed on to the migrant passengers and as such be monitored by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India.
A one stop Call centre operating 24X7 should be set up by the collaboration of the Central Government and the States along with the Indian Railways to provide information round the clock about travel options available to migrants as organized by the Government, instead of the workers having to approach the authorities seeking information. This will not only reduce the burden on the distressed migrants but shall also ensure that relevant and correct information is provided to them in real-time, and they do not resort to walking towards their native place in the absence of information.
Information about the availability of flights, Shramik trains and buses should also be disseminated through Social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, TikTok etc. The same is a convenient and direct way to get in touch with the thousands of standard migrants in one go.
Senior Advocate KV Viswanathan is appearing for the applicant today before the Supreme Court.