21-day lockdown: Plea in SC seeking immediate relief for informal sector workers

Petitioners have stated that they collected a list of around 300 people in Delhi and about 2,500 from other parts of the country, who are daily wagers without ration cards on the verge of starvation

Supreme Court of India (File photo)
Supreme Court of India (File photo)

Ashlin Mathew

The Supreme Court will on Friday hear a writ petition filed by Swami Agnivesh and National Campaign Committee for Eradication of Bonded Labour praying for immediate relief to the poor, informal sector workers, slum dwellers and economically weaker sections who are facing additional difficulties due to the outbreak of Coronavirus. The respondents are the Central government and all the states and union territories in the country.

The writ petition states that the condition of the poor is dire. The ration shops are opening infrequently, so slum areas need many feeding centres to be opened to avoid starvation. The petitioners have stated that they collected a list of around 300 people in Delhi and about 2,500 from other parts of the country, who are daily wagers without ration cards on the verge of starvation. The petitioners state that in Delhi, they are currently at Okhla, Badarpur, Outram Line, Prahaladpur, Nangloi, Kotla Mubarakpur, Kapashera, Munirka, Baljit Nagar, Patel Nagar, Subhash Camp and Copernicus Marg mostly.

Questioning the effectiveness of Delhi government’s 334 feeding centres, the petition states that in reality most of the hungry people are not getting food. They have requested that the court order the police in all the states to ensure that no person in distress and no migrating person or person in search of food and employment is beaten by the police or treated with indignity.

They have requested for buses to be arranged so that people can return home in a dignified manner free of charge and with basic food being provided for on the way. The petitioners seek the opening of Anganwadi centres across the country and the provision of mid-day meals as before.

In case of HIV positive patients, they have requested for medicines to be delivered to them. Additionally, they want all medicines in the national list of essential medicines to be made available and that public hospitals should continue to function as usual and the Out-Patient Department shouldn’t refuse any new patient.

Realising the dangers of the insistence on Aadhaar, the petitioners have requested the governments to not insist on an Aadhar card or any form of identification while providing basic services such as food, water, shelter and medicines.

This petition is in addition to the one filed by Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj for the enforcement of the fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, of migrant workers who are severely affected by the 21-day nation-wide lockdown. This will also be heard ahead of Swami Agnivesh’s petition.

They have pointed out that the order from the Home Ministry stating that the employer of migrant workers must pay their wages during the lockdown is unrealistic as many of these establishments are small businesses that have been forced to shut down and hence employers will not be able to pay these wages. Besides, majority of these migrant workers are self-employed.

They are seeking directives from the court to order Central and the state governments to jointly ensure payments of minimum wages to all the migrant workers within a week, whether employed by other establishments, contractors or employers during the period of the lockdown.

Click here to join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines