AGENCIES, New Delhi: As news broke across the country that thousands of jobless migrant workers were being forced to walk back to their natives places a due to the coronavirus lockdown, the Supreme Court on Monday observed that the panic and fear is becoming a “bigger problem than coronavirus”, and promptly sought a status report from the Centre by Tuesday on the measures taken to prevent the exodus.
The court said it would not create more confusion by issuing directions on measures which the government is already taking.
Hearing two separate petitions through video-conferencing, Chief Justice Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao said before passing any direction, it would like to wait for the status report from the centre.
The PILs, filed by advocates Alakh Alok Srivastava and Rashmi Bansal, sought relief, including food, water, medicines and proper medical facilities, for thousands of migrant workers who are leaving for their native places after being rendered homeless and jobless due to the 21-day coronavirus lockdown.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre said the migration needs to be stopped to prevent the spread of virus and the Centre as well as concerned states have taken requisite steps to deal with it.
Referring to various news stories, Srivastava, petitioner in-person, said there is lack of cohesion and cooperation between states on the issue of migration of labourers. The Uttar Pradesh government initially provided buses for movement of migrant labourers for two days and now they have stopped the service, he added.
The Bench posted the matters for further hearing on Tuesday.
The separate plea, filed by advocates Bansal and Anuj Gupta, contended that “mass exodus” of migrant workers from cities to their villages could further spread the virus.
The plea also said states should be directed to stop migrants wherever they were and allow their movement after they are sanitised.
It said that direction should be given to the authorities to create awareness regarding the measures taken by the government, including provision of free food grains and other essential items through PDS, and streamline the procedures to stop fear and chaos among these people.