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‘Bigger problem than coronavirus’: SC seeks Centre’s response on migrants’ exodus

Chief Justice Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao, who were listening to two separate please via video-conferencing, said it would wait for the Centre's status report before passing any direction, to avoid confusion.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 30, 2020 4:06:46 pm
coronavirus migrant workers, coronavirus india lockdown, coronavirus migrants exodus, sc on migrants exodus, india lockdown, india coronavirus Migrant workers at Anand Vihar Bus Station in New Delhi on Saturday. (Express photo/Abhinav Saha)

Taking note of the exodus of migrant workers from the national capital and other cities, the Supreme Court on Monday said that the panic and fear among citizens is becoming a “bigger problem than coronavirus”, and sought a response from the Centre by Tuesday on the measures taken to prevent travel during the lockdown period.

Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao, who were listening to two separate pleas via video-conferencing, said it would wait for the Centre’s status report before passing any direction.

In their pleas, advocates Alakh Alok Srivastava and Rashmi Bansal sought relief, including food, water, medicines and proper medical facilities, for thousands of migrant workers who have been leaving for their native places after being rendered homeless and jobless due to the 21-day lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the mass exodus needs to come to a halt to prevent the spread of the virus which has infected over 1,000 across the country so far. He added that both the central and state governments have taken requisite steps to deal with it.

The bench said, “We would not deal with the things, which the government is already doing. We would like to wait for the report of Centre”.

In his petition, Bansal suggested that sanitisers can be sprinkled on the groups of migrant labourers to disinfect them, and mid-day meal providers should be roped in to provide food.

To Bansal’s remarks, the bench said, “You are assuming that government is not doing anything. It is advising us on what steps to be taken. Let us see what they are doing. Let them file a common reply on both these petitions?.

Bansal also said that counsellors could be deployed for these migrant workers, who are trying to leave cities due to fear and panic.

“This fear and panic is a bigger problem than this virus”, the bench observed, adding, “we are not going to add to the confusion by issuing directions which are already being taken care of by the government.”

Srivastava pointed out at the lack of cohesion and cooperation between states and said the Uttar Pradesh government had initially provided buses for movement of migrant labourers for two days but later stopped them.

“With Railways and buses suspended, several of such migrant workers are walking for kilometres to reach their villages. Many are unable to make it across state borders and thus are left stranded on roads, without food, water or shelter. There is a large-scale human distress,” his plea said.

(With PTI inputs)

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