Mander to SC, lockdown unleashed humanitarian crisis, give minimum wages to migrant workers

New Delhi: Activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj moved a plea in the Supreme Court saying the 21-day lockdown has unleashed unprecedented humanitarian crisis on the migrant workers and sought direction for the Centre and state governments to ensure payments of minimum wages to all migrant workers within a week.

Mander filed the plea through advocate Prashant Bhushan seeking direction from the top court to immediately activate National and State Advisory Committees of experts in the field of disaster management and public health and prepare national and state disaster management plans for dealing with the COVID epidemic.

"The current lockdown has cast an unprecedented economic hardship on daily wage earners. It is submitted that the Central and state authorities have the necessary power and consequential duty to direct that all daily wage earners be provided with their wages at the place where they are currently present under the lockdown", the plea contended.

The petition said the Disaster Management Act obliges the Centre and state governments to put in place a detailed plan and machinery for dealing with and mitigating the effects of disasters and obliges them to take all steps required to help the victims of disasters whether direct or indirect in accordance with the plan.

Mander said the unplanned and sudden lockdown led to loss of jobs and money for migrant workers, and also curtailed access to food and shelter.

"The government must thus ensure that the wages are paid to migrant workers at the place that they are presently located during the lockdown, whether in their home state or in shelter homes or in the state where they had migrated to before the lockdown", said the plea.

The petition contended that lockdown order ignores the harsh realities that workers have to persistently face in cities, compounded further when the order deprives them of their job, daily wages and hence means of survival, thus violating their Article 21 rights.

"The petitioner submits that this order is not the correct or adequate response to the large scale exodus of migrant workers. As directed in the order, it is also unrealistic to expect the small establishments employing migrant workers to pay them their wages at their place of work", said the plea.