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Opinion

Speaking for migrant workers | HT Editorial – Editorials

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The Supreme Court (SC) has finally spoken about the “problems and miseries of migrant workers”. On Thursday, after listening extensively to the government (represented by Attorney General Tushar Mehta), a group of states and others representing migrant workers and organizations, the court ordered that no migrant workers be charged any travel fees. by train or bus; receive food while returning home on trains and buses; receive transportation as soon as possible after registering in the states; and taken to the nearest shelter and provided food and other comforts if they are on the road, stranded and on foot. It has also asked the Center to provide details on the number of migrants waiting to return home, transportation plans, and registration mechanisms.

The plight of migrant workers, and their exodus back to their villages, represents one of the most serious humanitarian crises that independent India has faced. The blockade imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic left poor migrant workers without income or food. Governments generally did poorly by providing an adequate safety net or anticipating their desire to return home. Tens of thousands of workers began walking home, across the country. Thirty-six days after closing, the government decided to allow its movement. The attorney general’s figures suggest that nearly 10 million workers have returned home, but this has been a process marked by suffering and chaos. Migrants have had to wait long before their turn came; the trains have left the schedule or the course; Millions of people are stranded: many continue to walk home. The human tragedy is huge, exemplified by an image of a young boy trying to wake up his mother, who allegedly died of starvation, heat and dehydration (although some reports say he was no longer well), at a train station. in Bihar.

This newspaper has criticized the SC’s previous reluctance to address the issue of migrant workers. But as it can be, his intervention is positive. What was disturbing was Mr. Mehta’s claim that some “isolated incidents” were being exaggerated by the “prophets of doom” and that the workers were being instigated to walk home. Media reports and civil society interventions played a key role in exposing the scale of the crisis. His comment is also insulting to the migrant workers agency. The government, in the past month, has made efforts to allow smooth movement. It must, together with the states, comply with the directives of the SC and improve the processes for citizens to return home. The SC must strictly monitor the executive to guarantee a humane approach to the crisis.

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