The states will get 15 more days to transport migrants home from the cities amid the coronavirus lockdown, the Supreme Court said on Friday, adding it will pass an order on the issue of stranded migrants on Tuesday.
Friday’s hearing came days after the Supreme Court took up the issue on its own and passed several orders to the states to help migrants reach home. The Centre requested the top court not to issue new guidelines for quarantine for now as all efforts need to be on bringing migrants home first.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said the railways has run 4,228 special “Shramik” trains till June 3 and taken 57 lakh people home. He said 41 lakh others have gone home by road, taking the total migrants who have left the cities to nearly one crore.
Mehta said the maximum numbers of trains have gone to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. “We have on record a chart which shows how many workers are yet to be shifted and how many trains are required for it. The states have also prepared charts,” he added.
A three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and MR Shah pointed out that according to the chart, Maharashtra has only asked for one train.
“Yes,” the Solicitor General replied. “We have already run 802 trains from Maharashtra.”
“What we intend to do is we will give you and the states 15 days to transport all migrants. All states bring on record how they will provide employment and other kinds of relief. There should be registration of migrants,” the Supreme Court said.
Advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for migrants, said the registration system is not working, leaving thousands of migrant workers unable to register. “Two high courts have made observations on the registration system. It needs to be simplified,” Gonsalves said.
One by one several states read out the data they have collected on migrants who have returned home. Gujarat said 20.50 lakh migrants have been sent home from the state; Maharashtra said 11 lakh have left the state, while some 38,000 remains, and Delhi said some two lakh migrant workers have stayed back in the national capital.
The Uttar Pradesh government said it hasn’t charged for the special “Shramik” train tickets. Bihar said 28 lakh have returned and the Nitish Kumar government has identified 10 lakh migrants for possible employment.
West Bengal said nearly four lakh migrants are in camps and the state has been serving meals to around a lakh people. The other states that updated the number of migrant movement include Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, and Odisha.
Odisha said it is taking extra care as a lot of migrants are returning to their states via Odisha.
The Centre allowed the special “Shramik” trains to run over a month after the coronavirus lockdown was enforced in late March after thousands of migrants, running low on food and money, started walking home hundreds of kilometres as public transport was banned.