On Friday, the Supreme Court of India reportedly dismissed a petition filed by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, seeking direction to District Magistrates to identify migrant workers walking to their native villages and facilitating their travel free of cost. The petition was filed in the wake of the Aurangabad train accident that killed 16 migrant workers on May 8.
Supreme Court will tomorrow hear my plea filed in the wake of death of 16 Migrant Labourers in Aurangabad— Alakh Alok Srivastava (@advocate_alakh) May 14, 2020
I am seeking direction to all District Magistrates to identify walking labourers in their areas & to ensure that all such labourers reach their native villages,free of cost! pic.twitter.com/jEfEmNv93Y
Observations made by the Supreme Court
A Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice L Nageswara Rao, Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul noted that it was impossible for the apex court to track who was walking and who was not.
The centre had informed the court that adequate arrangements have been made for shelter and transport of migrant workers. But some of them do not want to wait and start walking.
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said, “Let the state decide. Why should this court decide or hear your application?” He asked the lawyer whether he would ensure the implementation of Government directives if given a special pass. The Court observed, “How can anybody stop this when they sleep on railway tracks? How do you stop people who want to keep walking? Can anyone go and stop them? Impossible for anyone to stop them.”
Supreme Court asks Solicitor General to take instructions from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh governments to file an affidavit on the steps being taken to appoint officers to help migrant labourers travel to their home states. pic.twitter.com/wVCB3ZzOIi— ANI (@ANI) May 15, 2020
The Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court that nothing can be done if migrant workers voluntarily choose to walk home, at a time when the States have been providing inter-state transport.
He added, “We can only request that people should not walk. Using force to stop them would be counterproductive. Migrants must have the patience to wait for their turn.” The apex court had also directed Mehta to file an affidavit on steps that are being taken to appoint officers who can facilitate the travel of migrant labourers to their hometowns.
Aurangabad Train Accident
Last Friday, 16 migrant workers, sleeping on the railway tracks, were mowed down by a goods train at Gadhe Jalgaon village in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district. The migrant workers were walking from Jalna to Aurangabad, a distance of nearly 65km, to catch a train to return home. They had walked along the rail tracks for 45 mins and had then slept on the tracks. Five of them escaped with injuries and they have been rushed to a hospital. The migrants had decided to take the railways track to reach Aurangabad to avoid getting zeroed by the police on the highways.