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NEW DELHI : The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre and state governments to transport stranded migrant workers, who are desperate to reach their hometowns amid the coronavirus lockdown, to their native places within 15 days.

A three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay K. Kaul and M.R. Shah, in a suo moto case, also asked the governments to rehabilitate them by ensuring jobs based on their skills.

The court also directed all states and Union territories to take all steps regarding the identification of stranded migrant workers in their state who wish to return to their native places and take steps for their journey by train or bus.

The apex court, in its slew of directions, also directed Indian Railways to provide Shramik Special trains within 24 hours if there is a demand for more trains in addition to the pending demand of the central government of 171 Shramik Special trains.

The apex court also directed the central government and the governments of states and Union territories to give details of all welfare schemes that can benefit migrants, including those meant for providing employment. It asked states to establish counselling centres and helpdesks at block and district level to provide information regarding government schemes and help migrant labourers identify avenues of employment and benefits that they can avail under the different schemes.

The top court also asked states and Union territories to maintain details of all migrant labourers who have reached their native places, along with their skills and nature and place of earlier employment. It asked the governments to maintain this list on the basis of village, block, and district to help the administration extend the benefit of different schemes that may be applicable to such workers.

The counselling centres should also help workers who have reached their native places and want to return to their places of employment, it said.

The apex court also asked states and Union territories to consider withdrawal of prosecution and complaints under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act and other related offences lodged against labourers who allegedly violated lockdown guidelines by travelling on roads during the period of the lockdown. The states and Union territories have to submit additional affidavits about details gathered, in line with the order within two weeks in the apex court. The top court had on 5 June reserved judgement in the case. The next date of hearing is 8 July.

States must also oversee the registration process of migrants and ensure that they board the train or bus at the earliest, the court stipulated. The Supreme Court had earlier directed state governments to provide free transport and adequate food to migrant workers who wanted to go home. It had said that the originating state will be responsible for providing food and water at all stations, while Indian Railways will take care of their needs during the journey.

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