New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the Centre on a plea seeking immediate direction for payment of basic minimum wages to migrant workers, who have been facing hardships ever since the 21-day lockdown by announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Also Read - ‘Inspiring Gesture’: PM Modi Thanks Supreme Court Judges For Contributing to PM-CARES Fund
Notably, the plea was filed by social activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bharadwaj. Also Read - Stick to Official Sources, Avoid Misinformation: Supreme Court Tells Media Outlets
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta had issued notice to Centre and posted the matter for further hearing on April 7, advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the petitioners said through video conferencing. Also Read - COVID-19 Lockdown: Supreme Court to Hear Plea on Migrant Workers on Monday
The plea said that fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution needs to be enforced for migrant workers who are severely affected by the lockdown ordered by the government on March 24.
The order for which no prior intimation was given, created a panic across the country and led to the instantaneous loss of jobs and wages of millions of migrant workers employed in establishments across India or self-employed as street vendors, rickshaw pullers, domestic house helps, petty job workers, etc. This led to the large scale exodus of these migrant workers to their home towns, the plea said.
The petition, filed through Bhushan, said that the sudden announcement of lockdown led to migrant workers crowding in large numbers of many thousands at bus terminals, railway stations and inter-state borders to find their way home, potentially exposing them to the virus and escalating the risk of its spread.
It said that as news started emerging of this large scale exodus of migrant workers and the threat it posed by disrupting public health measures of social distancing to curb the spread of the virus, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order dated March 29, for restriction of movement of migrants’.
This order asks employer of the migrant workers to pay their wages during the lockdown and their landlords not to charge them rent for this period. It also asks the State Governments to make arrangements for food and shelter for these workers,” it said.
However, the petitioner submitted: “This order is not the correct or adequate response to the large scale exodus of migrant workers.
It added that as directed in the order of MHA, it is also unrealistic to expect the small establishments employing migrant workers to pay them their wages at their place of work.
(With PTI inputs)