The Gujarat high court has said that the state government should bear the fare of the migrants returning to their home states, or the Railways should provide a waiver.
This comes after the state government told the court on Friday that since several migrants had come to the state on their own, provisions of the Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1979 that covered displacement allowance and journey charges did not apply to them.
The state government said this in a report filed before the court in connection with several petitions by advocate Anand Yagnik which are being heard as part of a public interest litigation related to the management of the Covid-19 outbreak in the state.
“The provisions of the Interstate Migrant Workers Act 1979 are applicable to the registered migrant workers under the said Act. There are 7,512 workers registered under the Act. Based on the available data, there are around 22.5 lakh migrant workers across the state. Most of them have come on their own and provisions for payment of travelling allowance and displacement allowance as required by Sections 14 and 15 of the Interstate Migrant Workers Act, 1979 is not applicable to them,” the government had said in the report.
The report stated that governments of Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have agreed to deposit travelling charges with the Railways.
“Travelling arrangements are made at district level where many NGOs and civil society organisations have been involved to facilitate the transportation of migrant workers including the charges notified by the Railways. Further, the states of UP, Odisha and Tamil Nadu have informed that they will deposit the payment for travelling charges to the Railways directly. No migrant worker has been denied travel to his home town on account of nonpayment of travel charges,” the affidavit further said.
Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the labour department, a copy of which was annexed to the report, has shown that half of the migrants in Gujarat are based in and around Surat.
The report put the total number of migrants in Gujarat at 22.5 lakh, “prior to them being allowed to return to their native states”.
“Total number of inter-state migrant workers from other states, in and around Surat (i.e. South Gujarat) is approximately 11.5 lakh… Total number of inter-state migrant workers, in the rest of the state: approximately 11 lakh,” said the report, citing a survey by the labour department.
The report also said that by May 31, only 1.5 lakh migrant workers would be left in Surat, “of which 1,15,000 have already resumed work in various factories and industries”.
Till May 21, 8,08,294 migrants were sent back on Shramik trains that went mainly from the railway stations in Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Gandhidham, Bharuch, Bhavnagar, Morbi, Palanpur and Valsad. Of these 205 trains had departed from Surat alone till May 19 taking home 3,06,131 migrants.
According to the state government, the 11.5 lakh inter-state migrant workers are engaged in sugarcane factories, powerlooms and diamond industry.