The SC should have been more proactive in the fight against the migration crisis – editorials
In addition to managing the growing number of Covid-19 cases and taking steps to alleviate the economic distress caused by the pandemic and the blockade, the most pressing problem for India right now is the fate of its migrant workers. For more than 50 days, millions of stranded workers, facing a severe shortage of food and cash, have desperately tried to return home. Tragic tales of families who walk hundreds of kilometers abound. Five weeks after the closure was imposed, the government finally introduced measures to allow stranded migrants to return to their homes, a process that is ongoing but has not prevented thousands of others from continuing to walk back to their homes.
While the political executive has been held accountable for its failure to address the plight of migrant workers in a timely and sensitive manner, it is also important to consider the role of another institution that should have done more in this period, to address this crisis – the judicial power. On Friday, dismissing a petition requesting that the Center go to identify and then provide food and shelter to migrant workers returning to their homes, the Supreme Court said it was a state decision. The Court, he added, could not control who was walking or not, nor could it stop them. Referring to the Aurangabad incident, where 16 migrant workers sleeping on the train tracks were cut by a train, the court noted that there was little to do if people slept on the tracks.
Regardless of the merits of the petition in question, the observations fit a broader pattern of the court’s attitude toward the issue. He has accepted the executive’s claims very willingly; could have done more to order relief and protection measures; and should have ensured strict judicial control of the entire process of identifying migrant workers, the food supply and shelter, wherever they are during their travel and transportation. To his credit, in the context that workers have to wait up to 19 hours to board the trains, the Gujarat High Court noted that there was a lack of coordination between government departments on the matter and asked the government to be more sensitive to the difficult situation. and instill confidence in the most “oppressed, least privileged and weakest sectors of society”. The Karnataka High Court has also done well to note that workers cannot be deprived of the opportunity to travel home due to their inability to pay the fees. India’s poorest need help. The government has to do its part. But the courts can help, with more sensitivity and direction.