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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday allowed human rights body NHRC to intervene in the case related to plight and miseries of stranded migrant workers due to pandemic-induced nation-wide lockdown.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah reserved its order on the suo motu (on its own) petition saying it intends to give 15 days to the Centre and state governments for sending to native places the all the migrant workers who want to return home.
The top court, in the proceedings held through video conferencing, also said that the workers in return be registered by the authorities for extending benefits of welfare measures including employment opportunities in home states.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in its intervention plea filed through Deputy Registrar Sunil Arora, gave “short term and long term measures” for consideration of the apex court in order to alleviate the plight of the migrant workers and to ensure that their human rights are not violated.
“In order to estimate the in-flow of migrant workers, States should collect the data of migrant workers at the point of departure in the originating State as well on arrival in the destination States. This will help States to effectively plan quarantine and relief measures for the migrant workers,” it said in one of the short term measures.
It sought a direction for implementation of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 to ensure that migrant workers are provided with a journey allowance.
“Menstrual hygiene products should be provided to migrant women and adolescent girls across the country,” it said, adding “Each state should be directed to ensure proper functioning of shelter homes especially for the accommodation of pregnant women, lactating mothers, children, and elderly persons.”
One of the suggestions said that medical facilities and nutritious food should be made available in shelter homes and states should be directed to identify the industry in which the migrant labour is working.
The identification of industry will aid the state in creating schemes for the migrant workers and in the preparation of a State-wide and nationwide database, the NHRC said.
“States should be directed to take steps for the support of migrant workers, similar to the steps taken by the State of Odisha which has set up a toll-free Shramik (labour force) Sahayata Helpline,Migrant Labour Help Desk, seasonal hostels for the children of migrant workers, and has strengthened Anti-Human Trafficking Units for migrant workers,” it said.
States must ensure medical facilities for check-ups for migrants before and after the journey, as well as availability of food and medical care during the journey, it said, adding that food and water should be made available for those who are walking or travelling on bicycles to their native places.
“The originating states should take steps to identify the destitute among the migrant labour and provide some quantum of compensation to ensure that they do not resort to begging after reaching their destination,” it said.
It raised the issue of late running of ‘Shramik’ trains and said, “Railways in consultation with the respective State Governments should ensure that such delays do not take place and the trains do not reach wrong destinations.”
A mission similar to that of the dedicated ‘Vande Bharat’ Mission should be started in a phased manner to help migrant workers reach their source destination, it suggested.
“A fund should be created for payment of ex-gratia relief by the concerned DM, which will provide fixed compensation to every migrant returning home,” it said.
The NHRC, in its long term suggested measures, said that a special provision be inserted in the law on Inter-State Migrant Workmen to deal with emergency situations like Covid-19, natural disasters.
Appointment of a claims commissioner be made to look into recovery from employers who abandoned “allocation of funds to states to be allotted to gram panchayats in order to create employment opportunities in the home states of migrants,” it said, adding “National portal for registration of migrants so that a nationwide database is created”.

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