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Migrant workers, who forced to return their native place after “cessation of their employment” during the COVID-19 induced lockdown, are already suffering and they have to be dealt with in a “human manner” by police & other authorities, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday. Million of workers & daily-wage earners left the big cities and returned to states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha & West Bengal in the aftermath of the lockdown enforced on March 25 to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

A bench of Justices:

Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M R Shah ordered states and UT’s to prepare a complete list of migrant workers who have reached their state and mention the work they were engaged in prior to lock down. To mitigate plight faced by migrants, the Supreme Court asked states and Union territories to identify migrant workers who have returned at the district and block levels and prepare an inventory of the vocational skills they possess and their employment history.The court asked the states/UT’s to consider withdrawing all prosecution proceedings or complaints lodged against the returning workers for violating the lock down and norms of social distancing enforced under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act.

These directions follow the May 28 order whereby the court took suo moto cognizance of the hardships faced by migrants returning to their villages. After going through response of all states/UTs on the transport of the migrant workers, the bench of justices Ashok Bhushan, SK Kaul and MR Shah said: “Police officers of state, paramilitary forces wherever deployed doing a commendable job but some instances of excess with regard to migrant labours are also there.”

The top court, which on May 28 had passed slew of directives including asking the states not to charge fare from the workers and provide them food free of cost till they board trains or buses, issued further directions to ameliorate their plights and asked authorities to consider withdrawal of criminal cases lodged against them for allegedly violating social distancing norms.

The Indian Railways has been running Shramik trains for transporting migrant workers. In today’s order the top court has asked for the registration process for travelling to be simplified as well published through local newspapers and television channels so that the information reaches the workers.