The Gujarat High Court yesterday took Suo Moto cognizance of the various news reports about the sufferings of migrant workers, daily wage earners and the poor people amidst the lockdown.
A division bench comprising of Justices P B Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora noted, “It appears that people at large are hungry. People are without any food or shelter. It seems that it is the outcome of complete lockdown. Whatever little help the poor people used to receive from the NGOs, other charitable institutions and volunteers, have come to a grinding halt. It has been reported that more than two hundred people living on the footpaths near the Ellisbridge have not had a morsel of food for the past four days. It is reported that the volunteers used to bring them food,but since the complete lockdown even that has stopped.“
The Court told the state, “it is the paramount duty of the State Authorities to ensure that its citizen do not go hungry”.The situation seems to be going out of control. Although the State Government is doing its best to combat the situation, yet we find that something is wrong somewhere. It appears that there is no proper coordination amongst various departments of the State Government. What is most essential as of now is a more humane approach or touch.”
The bench directed that necessary arrangements needed to be made for the distribution of food packets in the city of Ahmedabad, areas on its the outskirts and other parts of the State.
These directions were issued taking cognizance of the news report published in Ahmedabad Mirror titled as “Give us food or kill us Now on May 11. It stated,
“more than 200 people – “daily wagers and their families – who have been living on footpaths near Ellisbridge say they haven’t had a morsel to eat for the past four days, volunteers used to bring their food, but since total lockdown, even that has stopped”
Migrant workers suffering the most
The bench also took notice of the fact that migrant workers were suffering the most in the current scenario.
It stated, “It appears that the migrant workers are suffering the most. They are desperate to go back to their homes i.e. to their native States across the country.”
While appreciating the efforts of the State authorities to transport the migrant workers back to their respective States by way of Trains, Buses, etc, the bench noted that according to the “The Indian Express” news item titled as “Migrant workers made to wait for 19 hours in Gujarat to board train to UP” they has to suffer for hours together in the scorching heat of almost 45 degree. before they are able to board the Train or a Bus.
It said, “The State Authorities should come forward with some modalities or plans to smoothen and ease the process so that the migrant workers may not have to wait for hours and hours together before they are able to board the trains or bus.”
The Court also took note of the news published in the Indian Express dated 11th May 2020 titled “Stop migrant workers walking home, take them to shelters: DGP”.
This report included the direction issued by the Director General of Police to stop any worker seen walking and take them to the nearest shelter home.
Wanting to know how many shelter homes were function in the state the court observed, “Everyday hundreds of migrant workers with small children are to be seen at different parts of the State more particularly on the highways. Their condition is pathetic. As on date, they are living in the most inhumane and horrendous conditions. As we have observed earlier, although all the necessary steps are being taken by the State Government, yet we are of the view that few more modalities need to be worked out at the earliest to ease the suffering of the people at large.“
Poor not afraid of COVID, but of death due to starvation
The bench further observed :
“The State Government should keep in mind that they are at present dealing with the most downtrodden, under privileged and weaker sections of the society. They are all afraid. They are not afraid of COVID19, but they are afraid that they would die due to starvation.
In such circumstances, it becomes the paramount duty of the State Government to assure and repose confidence in the downtrodden class of people that they will be taken care of in the best possible manner. It is high time for the State Government to deal with this delicate situation very carefully and instill confidence in the minds of the people at large that they will be taken care of”.
The Court hence requested Mr. Kamal Trivedi and Ms. Manisha Lavkumar Shah, the Advocate General and Government Pleader respectively to discuss all the aforesaid issues with the highest authorities of the State Government and revert to the bench with some concrete plans as to how they intend to take care of the problems faced by the people at large as on date.
Clarifying that it did not want to interfere with the “day to day functioning” of the Government, the Court clarified that it did not want the situation to go from “bad to worse”.
It said, In such circumstances, the judiciary will have to intervene.”
Don’t lose heart, Court appeals to people of Ahmedabad
In view of the worsening situation of COVID-19 outbreak, the Court passed certain observations, intended to lift the morale of the people.
Noting that the State Government has entrusted the exclusive charge to Shri Dr. Rajeev Gupta, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest and Environment to combat the prevailing situation in the entire city of Ahmedabad and the areas situated on the outskirts it observed,
“We are sure that with the special skills Dr. Gupta possesses, the rich experience gained over a period of years as an I.A.S. officer and with all the ability at his command the situation in the city of Ahmedabad will soon be normal”. We would like to convey a message to the people at large that do not lose heart. Everything that Has a Beginning Has an End. NOVEL COVID19 is not immortal. We all need to stand united and fight. People with resources should stand besides the frail, aged, needy and poor. Trust in the Almighty.”
Read the Order here: