India's Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered states to
identify stranded migrant workers and transport them back to their
hometowns within 15 days even as the humanitarian crisis surrounding
their movement has continued over weeks of lockdown.
A three-judge bench also directed state governments to consider withdrawing cases filed against the workers under the Disaster Management Act for lockdown violations, including crowding at rail stations, legal news website Live Law reported.
The court also asked federal and state governments to formulate a scheme for providing employment to the migrants and establish helpdesks to give them jobs after mapping their skills, the report said. India's nationwide lockdown since March 25 has left millions out of work and resulted in a mass exodus from urban centres to villages, with workers trying to get home on trains and buses. Some groups even set off on foot.
A number of migrant deaths on the road have been reported, both from exposure to the sweltering heat and a lack of food and water. Even though the lockdown has eased and is limited to containment zones, the large-scale movement continues. Last month, the court asked state governments not to charge the workers for their train or bus journeys and asked them to arrange for food and water.
In the last hearing, the government said it had arranged to transport almost 10 million migrant workers home by trains and buses since May 1. However, opposition politicians estimate many of India's 40 million workers in cities want to get home and it could take several months to arrange journeys for such labourers.
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