Congress’s spokesperson Randeep Surjewala seeks audience in suo motu proceedings; says nationwide plan needed for stranded migrants 

RANDEEP Singh Surjewala, the spokesperson of the Indian National Congress (INC), filed an intervention application on Wednesday in the suo motu proceedings initiated by the Supreme Court regarding the miseries of migrant labourers.

In his application filed through Advocate on Record (AoR) Sunil Fernandes, Surjewala submitted that at present there is no nation-wide action plan regarding the stranded migrant labourers. He added to identity and accurately tally the total number of migrant labourers who continue to be stranded, the Government of India needs to carry out an exercise at the District and Village level to prepare these lists immediately.

Further, he suggested that the Government of India might immediately set up reception centres and facilitation centres at District and Village level for receiving labourers and facilitating further travel of the labourers to their native districts/villages.

“On the basis of information being provided by the labourers, qua the hardship faced and the facilities/actions that helped them during their journey, the Government of India may formulate a nationwide action plan to address the issues of stranded migrants”, the applicant said.

According to the applicant, the Government of India has already announced certain financial reliefs qua the migrant labourers, therefore, the said reliefs should be implemented on an urgent and immediate basis and a public announcement detailing the reliefs with timelines and step-wise procedure of release should be shared with the public and migrants.

“In view of the fact that the stranded migrants have been uprooted from places of gainful employment, the Government of India should formulate urgent and immediate schemes for providing gainful employment to the migrant labourers, with additional and specific schemes, which take into consideration the education of the migrant labourers’ children and the general well being of their family members”, the applicant told the court.

Surjewala contended that due to the nation-wide lockdown, the Parliament of India has not been able to conduct any session since March of 2020, and hence INC and he have been unable to raise the issues of migrant labourers before the Parliament.

He added due to failure of the Government of India to formulate any joint committee with the opposition political parties for addressing issues of stranded migrant labourers, the Government of India has been unable to consider the measures suggested by him and the opposition party or any member of Parliament not belonging to the ruling dispensation. According to him, this failure on the part of Centre forced him to approach the apex court.

The apex court on May 26 had taken a suo motu cognizance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers who are stranded in different parts of the country post announcement of the nationwide lockdown on March 24.

It asked the Centre to bring to its notice all measures and steps taken by the Government of India and to be taken in this regard.

While issuing notice to the Central Government, the State Governments and Union Territories, a three-judge bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M R Shah also observed:

“The newspaper reports and the media reports have been continuously showing the unfortuanate and miserable conditions of migrant labourers walking on-foot and cycles from long distances. They have also been complaining of not being provided food and water by the administration at places where they were stranded or in the way i.e. highways from which they proceeded on-foot, cycles or other modes of transport.

The matter is slated to be heard on May 28.