Updated: May 6, 2020 3:00:11 am
The Bombay High on Tuesday asked the state government to file a reply clarifying its stand on bearing the travel expenses and cost of medical screening of migrant workers who wished to return to their hometowns amid the coronavirus-enforced lockdown.
A single-judge bench of Justice Shirish C Gupte heard, through video-conference, Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed by several non-government organisations seeking various reliefs for migrant workers, slum dwellers and homeless people in the state, and directed the state government to file its reply by May 8.
Advocates Kranti LC and Ronita Bhattacharya, appearing for the NGOs, submitted that the Congress had announced that its state units would bear the railway transportation cost for migrants, following which the Centre had clarified that 85 per cent of the cost would be borne by it, and the remaining 15 per cent would be paid by the respective states.
The petitioners said the Congress is a stakeholder in the Maharashtra government and, therefore, clarity on who would be paying for the migrants was required. It was also submitted that migrant workers were required to pay to obtain medical clearance certificates as laid down in the procedure to return home and the government should pay for the expenses to avail it.
After the state government lawyer said the current policy was silent on this aspect, the bench directed the state to respond on the same. Justice Gupte also said that the central and state governments need to coordinate and inform the high court at the next hearing as to how they are going to pay for migrant workers’ journeys back home.
With several COVID-19 positive cases being found in slums and heavily populated areas in the city, NGO Ghar Bachao, Ghar Banao, through advocate Kranti LC, had earlier urged the court to direct the BMC and state government to provide slum dwellers and the homeless in Mumbai cooked meals, as well as ensure their areas are sanitised, they have access to mobile toilets and that families, which have been asked to remain under quarantine, are kept at tenements for Project Affected Persons, among others.
The court had noted that complaints of slum dwellers and the homeless persons can be addressed by already constituted committees on taluka and district levels. The HC had also sought survey reports and steps for the implementation of measures for migrants and slum dwellers from the state government.
The court posted further hearing on the PILs on May 8.
Curfew guidelines with exemptions issued
The police on Tuesday issued revised curfew guidelines restricting all non-essential travel between 8 pm and 7 am until May 17. The order issued by Pranaya Ashok, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations), will remain in effect until midnight on May 17.
A similar circular released on Sunday did not mention the list of exempted services. Tuesday’s order stated that exceptions have been made for individuals with medical emergencies and those working in hospitals, pharmacies, medical colleges, public utility services, essential infrastructure services, IT and IT-enabled services, ports, home delivery services, godowns and warehouses and print and electronic media.
As of Tuesday, 3,800 offences have been registered for violating curfew orders.
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