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Migrants in Chhattisgarh (PTI)
Migrants in Chhattisgarh (PTI)

Migrant workers issue: SC asks states for detailed records

Migrant workers issue: SC asks states & UTs to file affidavits giving details of records maintained

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday directed the states and Union Territories (UTs) to file affidavits within three weeks giving details of the "mode and manner" in which records are being maintained about migrant labourers, who have reached their native places due to COVID-19 induced nationwide lockdown.

The apex court said despite its June 9 order directing the states and UTs to transport all stranded workers by trains or other modes within 15 days, there are still migrant workers who are stranded in different states including Maharashtra.

The top court said that none of the states and UTs have filed any affidavit giving details of compliance of directives given by the court last month.

"The states are required to bring on record the mode and manner in which records of migrant labourers who have reached their native places are being maintained with their skill, nature of employment and other details. Let states/Union Territories may also file affidavits in the above regard within a period of three weeks," a bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said.

The bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah, said states and UTs should also give details regarding compliance of other directions issued by the court on June 9.

In its June 9 order, the apex court had issued several directions and asked the Centre and state governments to identify and send back within 15 days the stranded migrant workers willing to return to their native places and advocated for their counselling and help to find avenues of employment lost during COVID-19 induced lockdown.

The apex court, which is dealing with the issue of "problems and miseries" of migrant workers, had last month asked authorities to consider "withdrawal" of criminal cases lodged against them for violating social distancing norms.

In its 12-page order passed on Friday, the bench referred to the affidavit filed before it by Maharashtra and said it indicated "that some migrant labourers are still awaiting to return to their native places" from the state.

"In our order dated June 9, we have directed all states/UTs to transport all stranded workers by trains or other modes within fifteen days. It appears that in spite of steps taken by the states including state of Maharashtra, there are still migrant workers stranded in different states including state of Maharashtra," the bench noted in its order.

"We are of the view that state of Maharashtra may take appropriate steps to ensure that stranded migrant workers who are still awaiting to return to their native places shall return to their native places, at an early date. The appropriate steps be taken in this regard," it said.

The bench also dealt with the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who had said that issues pertaining to transportation of stranded migrant workers be closed and if there are any grievances by anyone, they may be asked to approach the jurisdictional high court.

It said that the apex court had already made it clear in its June 9 order that those matters in which high court has taken cognizance, they shall be decided by the respective high courts.

The apex court said in its last month’s order, it had referred to three enactments -- Inter­State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1979, Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1996 and Unorganized Workers' Social Security Act, 2008.

The bench noted it was submitted before it that necessary registration under these enactments have not been made by states due to which large number of migrant workers and unorganised labourers are unable to reap benefits of these laws.

"Our above order (of June 9) contemplated response of the states with respect to registration of workers. Although several states have made rules under the above enactments but all necessary details regarding the steps taken by concerned states have not been brought on record. No states have filed affidavit giving its response with regard to steps taken by the states in regard to aforesaid enactments," the bench said.

It referred to an affidavit filed by Maharashtra in which the state had said that Maharashtra State Social Security Board was constituted on April 3, 2018 but registration under Unorganized Workers Social Security Act has not yet started "but about 5,84,219 workers have been enrolled under Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan Dhan Yojana".

"We are of the view that all states/UTs have to file affidavits responding to steps taken by the states/UTs with regard to implementation of above mentioned three enactments. Let affidavit be filed by all the states/UTs indicating the steps taken by them with respect to above mentioned enactments within a period of three months," it said and posted the matter for hearing after four weeks.

On the issue raised regarding preparation of National Disaster Management Plan for COVID-­19, the bench said it would be dealt with in a separate pending petition in which it has already reserved its order.

It said that other issues, including food security, health insurance for migrant labourers and relaxation on insistence on registration, shall be considered after the affidavits are filed before it.

Earlier in May, the top court had passed a slew of directions including asking the states not to charge fare from the workers and provide them food free of cost till they board trains of buses.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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