PIL filed in TS High Court to ensure migrant workers get food

Hyderabad: A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in the Telangana High Court to safeguard the right of migrant workers to get subsidized food grains during the period of COVID-19 lockdown, in absence of Rs. 500 to each worker and 15 kg rice announced by the Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao.

The plea filed by Prof. PL Vishweshwar Rao, Vice-President of Telangana Jana Smaithi asked the court to ensure food, temporary shelter and medical aid to the migrant laborers, who were locked in their rented premises or were in transit roads, national highways due to the lockdown norms introduced to contain the spread of Coronavirus.

Prof Rao said the according to the joint labor commissioner L Chaturvedi, there are 8.5 lakh migrant workers also include women suffering for food due to lockdown. He demanded in his PIL to take urgent urgent steps to be taken to mitigate the problems of migrant laborers who have been rendered homeless and wage less by the Covid-19 lockdown and who are looking to return to their homes in different states from where they had migrated for a livelihood.

He also stated in his PIL that it was important to ensure that the migrant workers do not go hungry even if they don’t have local ration cards. The petitioner said that on 30 March, the government of Telangana issued GO 13, specifying that 3,35,669 migrant workers’ will be provided with 12 kg rice and Rs 500 per person in cash as immediate relief to cope with the impact of lockdown. The state, like several others, did not have a database of migrant workers prior to this lockdown.

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The lockdown decision which was announced on March 25 was unplanned and made unilaterally without any consultation with the state governments. This caught millions of migrant workers and the bureaucracy off-guard, leaving them no time to plan for such an emergency. While millions of migrants successfully reached their home states, only to be quarantined in camps, many remain stranded far from home, with no money or food. Steps must be taken to ensure no migrant worker remained without food.

More than 3, 35,669 migrant workers remained stuck in several districts of the state after the countrywide lockdown was announced on March 25 to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The 21-day lockdown was subsequently extended up to May 7.

According to a study carried out by a group of concerned citizens among such people caught unawares and stranded on highways and outside the cities, summarized their problems as below:

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The main findings of the report are as follows: 

  • 50% of workers had rations left for less than 1 day
  • 96% had not received rations from the government and 70% had not received any cooked food 
  • 74% had less than half their daily wages remaining to survive for the rest of the lockdown period. 
  • 89% have not been paid by their employers at all during the lockdown
  • 44% of the calls received were “SOS” with no money or rations left or had skipped a previous meal
  • The rate of hunger is exceeding the rate of relief. Percentage of people who said they have less than 1 day of rations increased from 36% to 50% in the third week of lockdown while the percentage of people who received government rations increased from 1% to only 4% in the third week of lockdown. 
  • The percentage of people who did not get cooked food from the government or any local organisation decreased from 80% to about 70% from the end of the second-week post lockdown to the end of the third-week post lockdown. 
Prof P L Vishweshwer Rao Vice President of Telangana Jana Samiti political party
Prof P L Vishweshwer Rao Vice President of Telangana Jana Samiti political party

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