Madras HC: One cannot control tears after seeing the pathetic condition of migrant labourers; it is nothing but a human tragedy

THE Madras High Court on Friday observed “it is a pity to see the migrant labourers walking for days together to reach their native places and in the process, some of them had lost their lives due to accidents. The Government authorities of all the States should have extended their human services to those migrant labourers”.

The Court was hearing a habeas corpus petition seeking direction to the Director-General of Police, Chennai to produce the bodies of migrant workers Mr.Ilayaraja @ Ganesan, and 400 others who had been illegally detained by the Superintendent of Police (SP), Sangli District, Maharashtra.

The court was apprised of the details of about 962 persons who were brought back from Maharashtra to their native State viz., Tamil Nadu and also the district wise details of those persons who were safely reunited with their families due to the efforts taken by the Government of Tamil Nadu.

A division bench of Justices N.Kirubakaran and R. Hemalatha, however, observed, “Though the Governments have taken care of every section of the society to the maximum extent possible, the migrant workers and the agricultural workforce are the neglected lot and they are the sufferers to the maximum…”

“This Court would like to know whether coordinated efforts have been taken by all the State Governments in consultation with the Central Government to address the sufferings of the migrant labourers”, the Madras HC said.

It, therefore, ordered to implead Union of India and Tamil Nadu government in the matter.

The court also lamented on the pathetic condition of migrant labourers. It said:

“One cannot control his/her tears after seeing the pathetic condition of migrant labourers shown in the media for the past one month. It is nothing but a human tragedy. When the lockdown was announced at the end of March 2020, lakhs and lakhs of migrant workers were stranded throughout the country…”

It went on to add, “most of the workers lost their jobs, no shelter is said to have been provided apart from lack of supply of adequate food. After waiting for a considerable time, they started migrating to their native states by foot. It is very unfortunate that those persons were neglected by all the authorities”.

“The heartbreaking stories are reported in the print as well as visual media that millions of workers were compelled to start walking to their native States with their little children carrying all their belongings over their head, surviving on the food provided by good Samaritans, as no steps were taken by the Governments to help those migrant workers”, the court noted in the order.

“It is also reported that some people starved to death due to hunger. 16 workers working in a steel factory in Julna, Maharashtra, who were sleeping on rail tracks while returning to Madhya Pradesh were crushed to death near Karmad around 30 km from Aurangabad by a goods train on 08.05.2020. Even after the sorrow and sufferings of the migrant workers were reported in the media, nothing happened for the past one month as there was no coordinated effort between the States”, the court observed.

The court also recorded in the order that “there are a number of toll gates available and those toll gates should have been made as checking points to provide food, shelter and medical help to the migrant labourers”.

“However, it is very pathetic to note that neither the native States nor the States through which they were walking all along took care of them and failed to provide even the basic amenities such as food and shelter and even if the had been provided, they were negligible”, the court added.

In this regard, the high court has directed both the Central Government and Tamil Nadu Government to appraise the court with following information:

  1. Whether any data is being maintained by the Government of India regarding the details of migrant workers working in each State/Union Territories in India?
  2. If so, what is the number of migrant workers in each State/Union Territories in India and the details regarding their nativity?
  3. What is the number of migrant workers stranded in each State/Union Territories in India as on today?
  4. What are all the assistance provided to those migrant workers by the respective States as well as the Union Government?
  5. Whether those migrant workers are allowed to cross the State borders or prevented from crossing the borders and if they are prevented, whether they are provided with basic amenities such as food, shelter and medical assistance?
  6. How many migrant workers died on their way to the native States?
  7. To which States/Union Territories, the deceased workers belong to?
  8. What are the relief measures/compensation provided to the families of those 
migrant workers who lost their lives on their way back to their native States?
  9. How many migrant workers in each State/Union Territories have been evacuated from their working States to their native States through 
buses/trains throughout India?
  10. What are all the steps taken to transport the remaining people to their native States?
  11. Whether migration of people is one of the reasons for spread of Covid-19?
  12. Whether the Central Government has instructed the respective States/Union Territories to provide financial assistance, job opportunities in their native State/Union Territories for the labourers who migrated from other States?

Next hearing in the matter has been fixed for May 22.


Read the Order here:



The Leaflet