New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday was informed that the migrants are being made to pay “exorbitant fees” as train fares in order to go back to their homes.
The petitioners, Jagdeep S. Chhokar, former Director in-charge of IIM-Ahmedabad and lawyer Gaurav Jain, had earlier urged the top court to direct authorities to allow migrant workers across the country to return home after having them tested for coronavirus.
The petitioners filed a supplementary affidavit, claiming it must be made clear that the railways and the states would not be charging the migrant workers for the train and bus travel being arranged for them.
“Migrants are being required to pay around Rs 800 as train fares and the same is highly unjustified. It has been reported that the Indian Railways is actually hiking its fare by 50 rupees per passenger,” said the affidavit.
The affidavit also claimed the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a letter to Chief Secretaries/Administrators clarified about the movement of distressed stranded persons. “But shockingly, the MHA has given a very narrow definition of stranded migrants by including only those who had moved from their native places just before the lockdown period but could not return to their native places on account of restrictions placed on movement of persons and vehicles as part of lockdown measures.
“It is common knowledge that a very large number of migrants, including labourers, street vendors, maids, factory workers etc., stay in their cities of migration for months and thus, such a narrow definition would exclude millions who have lost all income and savings and wish to go back to their native villages,” said the plea.
The petitioners claimed that migrants have been stranded for no fault of their own, with zero earnings and no financial support. “Therefore, it must be made clear that the Railways and the states would not be charging the migrant workers for the train and bus travel being arranged for them,” contended the petitioners.
“All the migrant workers who wish to go back to their hometown/villages, including those who are living in shelter homes/relief camps as well as those who might be stuck in rented accommodations, must be treated as ‘stranded’ for the purpose of Home Ministry’s order dated 29.04.2020 and their travel by trains or buses should consequently be facilitated free of cost by the Central government,” they argued.
The affidavit also cited media reports that some states have already started sending the migrants to their native places and the April 29 order by MHA has left it upon the states to allow the travel of migrants to/from other states after both the states agree.