New Delhi: As the Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that around 91 lakh migrant workers have been transported to their home states in coordination with the state governments on board the Shramik Special trains and road transports between May 1-27, the top court queried whether the vast human population of workers on their journey were being fed properly.
The top court asked the Centre’s counsel, “Are they asked to pay for tickets at any stage…the concern is how is the state government paying? Are the workers being asked to shell out money?”
The top court also queried, are these people being reimbursed later? And, are they getting food as they wait for trains to be transported? “They must get food,” insisted the top court. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta replied they are being provided food.
Mehta, representing the Centre, said nearly 3.36 lakh migrants were moved every day, and insisted that the government would not stop its efforts till the last migrant was sent back to his/her home state.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, S.K. Kaul and M.R. Shah said no doubt Centre and state governments have taken steps, but there are many deserving persons who could not avail the benefits meant for them.
The observations from the top court came during a hearing on the matter connected with the plight of migrant workers, where it took suo moto cognizance.
The apex court told the Centre to ensure migrants on the move get food, water and basic amenities before they reach home. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar account for 80 per cent migrants, Mehta informed the top court.
The apex court noted that in relief camps migrants may be getting food, but those in rented premises are suffering due to the lockdown.
On Tuesday, the top court had said there have been inadequacies and lapses on part of both central and the state governments, and sought response from Centre and state governments.
Mehta contended before the bench that concerned authorities are also properly screening at boarding and alighting points for the migrant workers, as a measure to ensure Covid-19 is not spread in rural areas.