After questions over its refusal to act on the migrant crisis in the country, the Supreme Court today took note of "problems and miseries" of labourers stranded by the coronavirus lockdown and asked the centre and states to provide transport, shelter and food to them immediately.
The Supreme Court issued notice to the centre, states and Union Territories and asked them to report to it on "steps taken to redeem the miseries" of migrant labourers within 48 hours or by Thursday.
"The newspaper reports and the media reports have been continuously showing the unfortunate 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," said a three-judge bench, taking up the case.
"In the present situation of lockdown in the entire country, this section of the society needs succor and help by the concerned governments, especially steps need to be taken by the government of India, state governments/Union Territories in this difficult situation to extend a helping hand to these migrant labourers."
The judges also called for "effective, concentrated efforts" to help them, noting "inadequacies" in government measures so far. "Although the Government of India and the State Governments have taken measures yet there have been inadequacies and certain lapses," they said.
Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah were the judges.
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul was part of the bench that had said in a hearing on May 15: "If people sleep on the tracks how can we stop it?"
The Supreme Court had then dismissed a petition that asked that the centre be ordered to provide food and water to migrants on the move.
"It is impossible for this court to monitor who is walking and not walking," the judges had said, in comments that became controversial and were contrasted with that of many High Courts who called it a human tragedy.