On May 27, 2020, the Head of Communications and Media Outreach as well as the official spokesperson of the Indian National Congress (INC) and former MLA from Haryana, Randeep Surjewala moved a plea to intervene in the suo motu case registered by the Supreme Court (in re: Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers) over the migrant crisis in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
Surjewala has mentioned in the intervention plea that he is Member of the ‘Core Committee’ constituted by the INC to aid and assist the Government of India in combating the COVID-19 pandemic and over the course of past 2 months and he has addressed more than 10 press conferences on the issue of the pandemic and the consequent nation-wide lockdown.
He also claimed that as a member of the COVID -19 Consultative Core Committee of the INC, he has studied several grounds reports received from the INC party workers from across the nation and suggested various measures to the Government of India in battling economic and health challenges associated with the pandemic.
Surjewala mentioned in his application, that due to lockdown, the Parliament of India has not been able to conduct any session since March of 2020 and due to the failure of the Government of India to formulate any joint committee with the opposition parties for addressing the issues of stranded migrant labourers, the Government of India has been unable to consider the measures suggested by the Applicant and the opposition party or any member of the Parliament not belonging to the ruling dispensation. Therefore, he was constrained to approach the Apex Court with regard to measures for helping the stranded migrants.
He informed the Court that he seeks to intervene and apprise the Court of certain pertinent measures that may be considered by the Government of India in order to alleviate the plight of the stranded migrant labourers.
Measures suggested by Surjewala are as follows:
- As there is no nation-wide action plan qua the stranded migrant labourers, to identity and accurately tally the total number of migrant labourers who continue to be stranded, the Government of India needs to carry out an exercise at the District and Village level to prepare these lists immediately.
- The Government of India may immediately set up reception centres and facilitation centres at District and Village level for receiving labourers and facilitating further travel of the labourers to their native districts/villages.
- On the basis of information being provided by the labourers, qua the hardship faced and the facilities/actions that helped them during their journey, the Government of India may formulate a nation – wide action plan to address the issues of stranded migrants.
- In view of the fact that stranded migrant labourers have sporadic access to food, medicine and shelter, and are presently dependent on largesse of private individuals for the same, the Government of India should immediately formulate a scheme to provide adequate food, medicine and shelter to the stranded migrant labourers.
- In view of the fact that certain financial reliefs qua the migrant labourers have already been announced by the Government of India, therefore the said reliefs should be implemented on an urgent and immediate basis and a public announcement detailing the reliefs with timelines and step-wise procedure of release should be shared with the public and migrants.
- In view of the fact that the stranded migrants have been uprooted from places of gainful employment, the Government of India should formulate urgent and immediate schemes for providing gainful employment to the migrant labourers, with additional and specific schemes, which take into consideration the education of the migrant labourers’ children and the general well-being of their family members.
- In view of the fact that the migrants are presently stranded without proper means to approach the Government authorities, the Government of India should immediately launch awareness campaigns for migrant workers to explain all benefits (through radio and other communication modes) being provided by the Government to alleviate their plight and struggles during the nation-wide lockdown.
The intervention application was filed by the Advocate on Record Sunil Fernandes and will be argued by Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi.