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Taking note of the plight of the workers who are on the move and on the roads, the Andhra Pradesh High Court said that it would be failing in its role as the protector of rights if no steps were taken at this stage by the Court to alleviate the suffering of the workers.
A Division Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court comprising Justices DVSS Somayajulu and Lalitha Kanneganti said that the labourers, who move to the cities to earn a livelihood and ensure that all of us live in comfort, are in distress today.
It is pertinent that Court takes certain steps to ensure that the pain and suffering of these labour on the move amid lockdown is alleviated.
The scope of Article 21 which guaranteed Right to life with dignity under the Constitution of India is an ever-expanding one and would bring under its ambit the present situation of the migrant workers who have resorted to dire means to return to their homes, the Court said.
The Court made these observations in light of the distressing news reports pertaining to the migrant workers as well as the affidavit filed by the State of Andhra Pradesh regarding the steps taken to address the issue of the migrant workers.
It is noted by the Court that State government has taken steps to ensure that after every 50 kilometres on the highway, food stalls are installed to help the moving migrants. The State has also submitted before the Court that relief centres are established as well.
The Court, keeping in view all the steps statedly taken by the Centre and State, has passed directions for some supplemental measures that must be taken "on priority and with immediate effect."
As regards Medical facilities, the Court said that the checkposts that are established on the Highways in the State must also have sufficient stock of food, good drinking water, oral dehydration salts and glucose packets, which should be supplied to the workers who are walking.
Also taking note of the harsh summer in the State, the Court said that paramedical staff and ambulances must also be made available at these centres to tend to any person in need of medical attention or affected by sunstroke or such.
Clean temporary toilets and changing rooms with adequate facilities for privacy, for women especially, should be put in place, the Court has directed. It added further that sanitary pad dispensing machines should also be made available at every alternate centre at least.
In addition to the volunteers who are distributing food to the workers on the move in their individual capacity, the State should also ensure that adequate arrangement for food is made. It adds,
"State Government must also seek help from the voluntary organisations and also from the companies/firms etc., as part of their CSR activity to provide food free of cost to these migrants. The activities of all the interested public, voluntary organisations etc., for providing food should be streamlined in such a manner that the food that is prepared actually reaches the migrant labour, who are moving on the road."
The patrol vehicles deployed by the National Highway Authority of India and the Police Department must be used to transport the workers facing difficulty while walking to the nearest shelter. The same shall be in addition to the buses used by the State government, the Court clarified.
The Court has also passed directions for ensuring that the pamphlets are printed in Hindi and Telugu to inform the migrant workers of the nearest shelter homes and that personnel are deployed to ensure that safety measures like social distancing norms are followed.
The Court has clarified that these directions are interim in nature till the time the movement of the labourers stops.
The Court also added that efforts must be taken by the State to convince the workers to stop walking and take the transportation being provided by the State Government.