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The Karnataka High Court today directed the state government to take a call on the extension of the last date for transporting migrant workers stranded in the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
While doing so, the High Court noted that the Supreme Court's order dated June 9 regarding transportation of migrants within 15 days was not mandatory.
The Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Nagarathna further directed the state to disseminate information that it is mandatory for stranded migrant workers to report to the nearest mustering centre before leaving the state.
The Court also urged that a clarification be made immediately in the state's policy to reflect the same, and that District Commissioners and the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) take the initiative to disseminate such information to the migrants.
This apart, the Court passed an array of other directions while dealing with the petition regarding transport of migrants to their home states amid the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The directions include:
Migrant Helplines to be made immediately operational across the State.
AICCTU to submit a list of persons intending to travel to Manipur and Nagaland. State to arrange for their transport immediately.
Apex Court direction regarding transporting migrants in 15 days is not mandatory. As the Supreme Court has not fixed a deadline, the State cannot fix the deadline. State to take a call regarding the extension of the last date for transporting stranded workers.
Simplified state policy pertaining to transportation of migrants dated June 13 to be modified as per observations of the Court.
State to place on record action taken reports by the District Commissioners and BBMP, with all data regarding action taken pursuant to the policy.
The data submitted should also indicate latest numbers on how many persons registered on Seva Sindhu have been sent back.
When the matter came up for hearing today, Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinnappa submitted that the state would take effective steps to help migrants register in order to go back to their states, be it at mustering centres, or via the Seva Sindhu website.
Further, the Court was informed that 80 mustering centres has been set up for the benefit of these migrants.
At this point, the Bench asked how the migrants are informed that they should be present at mustering centres in order to go back to their states.
AAG Chinnappa stated that the same has been mentioned in the SMS that was being sent to migrants.
Unconvinced with the state government's stand, the Court suggested that an SMS be sent to all migrants informing them that they are compulsorily required to be present in mustering centres in order to go back to their states.
"This will avoid further confusion", the Bench opined.
The Court observed that migrants were not going to these mustering centres, as they are not aware of this requirement. Once it is made mandatory, all migrants will end up going to the centres, the Bench observed.
At this stage, the Court further asked the state government whether all migrants would be successfully transported back to their home states by June 24, which would mark the end of the 15-day period mentioned in the Supreme Court order.
On this issue, the Bench noted that the Apex Court had directed that the process of transportation “may” be completed in 15 days. The Bench further noted that "it is possible that some migrant workers may not be able to go back within the deadline fixed by the Apex Court". In this regard, the Bench held that the process of Migrant transportation is to be continued even after the 15 days period. The order reads,
"Therefore, Clause (vii) of the State Policy which records that the Policy shall only continue till 24th June, 2020 is completely erroneous as it may indicate that after the expiry of the period of fifteen days, it is not necessary for the State to arrange for the transportation of any migrants. That is not the purport of the order of the Apex Court. Though the Apex Court has observed that the process has to be completed within a period of fifteen days, it does not mean that the process should stop after fifteen days."
Additionally, Advocate Clifton D'Rozario, appearing for the petitioners, had submitted that the situation has improved comparatively. However, dissemination of information from the state government to the public still remained a serious issue. He went on to contend that Migrant Helpines were not made operational in the state.
Further, D'Rozario pointed out that there were around 200 migrant persons from Manipur and Nagaland who wished to go back. However, till date, they have not been transported.
AAG Chinnappa told the Court that 18 Shramik Trains were scheduled for carrying migrant workers to their home states in last 7 days.
Expressing its dissatisfaction, the Bench commented,
"Very less...You (State Govt) have not requisitioned for more trains. "
The matter will be next heard on June 25.