New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered that migrant workers should not be charged any fare, either for rail or road transport, while travelling back to their homes.
The top court also asked the state governments and Union Territories to provide food, shelter and water to migrant workers, and also to those found walking back to their homes.
A bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan and comprising Justices S.K. Kaul and M.R. Shah, asked the state governments to arrange for food, shelter and water for the migrants waiting for their turn to board either buses or trains to return to their homes.
"The railway fare shall be shared by the states as per their arrangement as submitted by the Solicitor General and in no case, any fare should be asked or charged from any migrant workers by the states and the railways," said the bench.
The top court said that the state, where the journey originates, will provide food and water at the railway station, and during the journey, the railways will provide meals and water to them.
"Migrant workers who are stranded at different places in the country shall be provided food free of cost by the concerned states/Union Territories at different places which shall be publicised and notified to them during the period they are waiting for their turn to board the train or bus," it said.
"The state shall oversee the registration of migrant workers. It should ensure that after registration, migrant workers are made to board the train or bus at an early date and complete information should be publicised to all concerned," said the bench.
The court added that migrant workers found walking on the roads should be immediately taken to shelters and provided food and all other basic facilities. "We further direct that the state shall simplify and speed up the process of registration of migrant workers and also provide help desk for registration at the places where they are stranded," it added.
The receiving state, after the migrant workers reach his native place, shall provide transport, health screening and other facilities free of cost, said the top court.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, contended before the bench that it is already being done, and the direction from the court may encourage people to move."
The top court also directed the Centre and states to furnish all necessary details regarding the number of migrants, plans for transportation, mechanism of registration and other details. As Mehta replied: "We need 10 days to reply. All officials are doing a lot of work", the apex court ordered that replies should be filed by June 5.
The court said that it is worried over the series of difficulties faced by the migrant workers while attempting to reach their home states. Though the states and UTs have taken measures, there are some glaring lapses in the overall process to provide relief to the migrant workers, it noted.