Arrangements for the transportation of migrant workers to and from the state will be announced on vernacular TV to avoid misinformation and overcrowding at assembly points, the Gujarat government has informed the High Court.
The state government said this in response to a report by The Indian Express on migrants being made to wait 19 hours before boarding a train home. Taking note of the report, the state also submitted that it had asked its officials to inquire into the matter after which a report was submitted by R.V Asari, Superintendent of Police (Ahmedabad Rural)
The High Court has taken a suo motu cognisance on the issue of migrant workers stranded in the state due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
As per the May 10 report, the prepared list of 1195 migrant workers gathered at the assembly point at GIDC industrial estate, in Changodar, where all related formalities were completed. Thereafter they were taken to the Viramgam Railway Station in 24 GSRTC buses, reaching at around 4:45 pm. The process of boarding commenced, and ultimately the train left at 5:30 pm.
“Pertinently, when the process of transferring the listed migrant workers to Viramgam Railway Station was going on, many other migrant workers not referred to in the said list of 1195 persons, took just a chance to gather outside the office of the concerned MLA in Viramgam, who has been actively engaged in informing the listed migrant workers and assisting in the arrangement of bringing the said listed migrant workers to the Railway Station. It has been further reported in this behalf that the crowd of the said migrant workers wanted to see that they are also allowed to board the train, though they were desired on a previous night to wait and keep patience, if their names are not in the list and accordingly not announced. This kind of episode is a rarity, so far as the State of Gujarat in particular, is concerned,” states the affidavit.
The state submitted that it has decided henceforth on two steps to avoid crowding by migrant workers.
“An announcement through local vernacular TV channels would be made that each of the migrant workers would be able to travel his / her native place and that, therefore, nobody should undertake to visit the assembly point and/or the offices of District / Municipal Authorities, whose names are not included in the list, and secondly, on the night prior to departure, an attempt would be made to see that the aforesaid request is reiterated through the Mukadams, Municipal Councillors, MLAs, office staff i.e. the representatives of the Mamlatdar office, while announcing the names of the migrant workers who are to undertake the travelling next day”, states the affidavit.
The other IE report that the court took cognisance of was on the DGP of Gujarat asking to stop migrants from walking home and taking them to shelters instead.
Where the state government submitted that as on date 66 shelter homes were arranged for migrants which had 1338 migrants lodged, across Gujarat .According to the state, of the 1,721 beds in shelter homes in AMC jurisdiction, only 502 were occupied by migrant workers from other states. It was further submitted that the state has till now sent 72,757 migrant labourers in 57 trains to their home states from Ahmedabad district. Otherwise, 263 special trains for 3,33,376 migrant workers of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh origin were arranged to transport them to their respective native places since 02/05/2020 to 13/05/2020, according to the state.
Satisfied by the state’s response, the division bench headed by Justice JB Pardiwala noted, “…all steps necessary to ease the problems, hardships and difficulties faced as on today by the migrant workers are being taken care of.
The HC also took note of media reports highlighting protests by 200-odd contractual employees working in the House Keeping Department of the Sardar Patel Vallabhbhai Patel Hospital (SVP Hospital), Ahmedabad for not being paid their salaries.
The court noted , “We immediately realised that this is something very serious and would lead to further complications. At this point of time, no employee of any hospital can go on a strike. At the same time, the employees should be paid their salaries in time.”
After enquiry, the advocate general submitted before the court that the issue was resolved and the employees were paid the salary for the month of May.
The HC further opined that according to them, the gravest issue as on date within the state was that of hunger. “People are without food, more particularly, the migrants, the labourers and the people hailing from the poor and downtrodden class of the society. In our order dated 11th May 2020, we pointed out that the poor class of society is not worried about the virus, but, they are worried about starvation. We highlighted that on account of complete lockdown, the services which were being rendered by the NGOs, charitable institutions and other volunteers has come to a grinding halt. We request the learned Advocate and the learned Government Pleader to take up this issue with the State authorities and see to it that even during the period of lockdown, some modalities should be worked out by virtue of which few selected and trustworthy NGOs, volunteers and charitable institutions can be asked to provide food to the poor and the needy.”
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