Plea in SC: Let migrant workers return home after corona test

New Delhi (IANS) A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Centre to allow migrant workers' to return to their native places, after testing them for COVID-19, and the authorities concerned should ensure safe transportation.

The plea contended that a large number of migrant workers, who wish to go back to their native villages to live with their families, was evident from the sudden rush in the wake of the initial 21-days national lockdown announced on March 24, and it resulted in a chaos at various bus terminals.

After the announcement of the nationwide lockdown, migrant workers had taken desperate means to return to their homes and the Centre has informed the apex court that they were all lodged in shelter homes as on March 31. The Centre insisted, ceasing internal migration, is an effective step to contain the outbreak of the virus.

Citing the migrant workers' decision to walk on foot back home, the plea said this led to tragic deaths of many such migrant workers who were left with no option but to travel hundreds of kilometers to their native places by foot.

"lt is submitted that recently there have been media reports which show that migrant workers are protesting on streets in some places due to non-payment of their wages and demanding to return to their native villages", said the plea.

The plea contended that the second period of nationwide lockdown has been announced, from April 15 to May 3, therefore the state authorities must arrange for the safe travel of those migrant workers who wish to go back to their native villages and home towns in other states."

For this purpose, necessary transport services may be provided by the state governments in abundance so that the purpose of 'social distancing' is not defeated", said the plea. Moreover, the plea sought necessary arrangements for testing of COVID-19 to be conducted on all those migrant workers who wish to travel to their native places, either in the state of their departure or in the state of their arrival.

The plea contended that these migrant workers are differently placed in comparison to those persons living in their own homes during this lockdown, and this adds to uncertain situations and circumstances, which is a bigger burden on this set of people. This violates their rights under Article 14, said the petitioner.

"The fundamental right of the migrant workers enshrined under Article 19(1)(d) (right to move freely throughout the territory of India and Article 19(1 )(e) of the Constitution (right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India) cannot be suspended for an indefinite period forcing these migrant workers to stay away from their families and living in unpredictable and arduous conditions", said the plea.

The plea recommended that workers who test negative for the novel coronavirus should be allowed to return home, rather than being housed in shelter homes.

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