Hearing a PIL by workers’ unions, Bombay HC asks state to facilitate help at the earliest.

The Bombay High court on Wednesday asked legal service authorities at the district and taluka levels in the state to step up their efforts and facilitate aid to migrant workers stuck at different locations due to the lockdown.

Justice Amjad Sayyed was hearing a petition filed by Sarva Hara Jan Andolan and Ang Mehnati Kashtakari Sangarsh Samiti. The two unorganised sector unions based in Raigad and Pune have claimed that migrant workers stuck across the state, including its borders with other states, are not receiving help from the government.

“We have judges and paralegal personnel who will co-ordinate with you, but implementation is your job,” Justice Sayyed said while directing the state government to file an affidavit before April 15 detailing all the steps taken.

While the State Legal Services Authority gives effect to the policies and directions of the central authority, the District Legal Services Authority and the Taluka Legal Services Committee provide free and competent legal aid in the nature of counselling and legal advice as well as free legal services in the conduct of cases before smaller courts and tribunals. Among several other endeavours these bodies undertake, the most important is providing legal aid to the under-privileged.

In a note to the court on Wednesday, senior counsel Gayatri Singh, representing the unorganised sector unions, stated that in districts like Pune, Kolhaphur and Sangli, rations were being denied to migrants. She said essentials were being given only to yellow card holders in many cases. While shelters have been provided in marriage halls, she said they are very unhygienic, especially in Nandurbar, Dhule and Jalgaon. She also pointed out that no free cooking cylinders were being given under the Ujjwala Scheme in any of the districts in Maharashtra.

Singh further claimed that people are only dependent on wells, hand pumps and rivers for water in rural areas. She also said a large number of daily wage workers like APMC cart-pullers, street vendors, autorickshaw drivers and transport workers are not being provided protective gear. The unions also said that a helpline number is being circulated but it’s not working efficiently.

Assistant government pleader Bhupesh Samant told the court that they were working with five per cent staff and yet 4,871camps have been set up for over five lakh migrant workers. He said the helpline number is common for all districts. The court has directed the state to file an affidavit and said the other issues could be looked into later, but most important right now is to provide food, shelter and medicines to those stranded.

Mumbai Mirror