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SC asks Centre to consider PIL seeking minimum wages for migrant workers during COVID-19 lockdown

PIL seeks direction to Centre and states to ensure payments of minimum wages to all migrant workers within a week and alleged that despite govt measures, labourers still lack access to amenities.

Published: 21st April 2020 10:10 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st April 2020 10:10 PM   |  A+A-

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India (File photo | PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Centre to consider the contents of a PIL which has sought direction to central as well as the state governments to "jointly and severally" ensure payments of minimum wages to all migrant workers who are suffering during the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B R Gavai, through video conferencing, was hearing the PIL filed by activists Harsh Mander and Anjali Bhardwaj seeking enforcement of fundamental right to life for migrant workers and payment of wages to them as they have allegedly been left without work or food following the lockdown.

"This Petition is filed...seeking inter alia, to direct Central Government and the State Government to jointly and severally ensure payments of wages/minimum wages to all the migrant workers within a week," the bench noted in its order.

The bench took into consideration the materials and the contentions of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the activists, and said, "We call upon the respondent-Union of India to look into such material and take such steps as it finds fit to resolve the issues raised in the petition".

It disposed of the PIL.

Bhushan said the PIL is seeking a direction to the Centre and states to "jointly and severally" ensure payments of minimum wages to all migrant workers within a week and alleged that despite governmental measures, thousands of labourers still lack access to basic amenities.

He said that studies conducted by NGOs indicate that there are several areas where the aid is not reaching to the migrant workers.

The law officer, referring to the status report, submitted that various measures are in place to address the issues concerning the migrant workers and helpline number has been provided to report on the implementation at the ground level.

He said that whenever any complaint with regard to food and other things is received, the authorities take action immediately.

Bhushan, on the other hand, said that a study has been conducted on many such workers and around 96 per cent has not received ration from the government and they have not been paid any money .

The law officer said many NGOs have been helping poor people during the need of this hour along with the government and asked cannot the petitioners help such workers in any other way besides filing PILs.

Bhushan said there were more than four crore migrant workers in the country and 15 lakhs of them have been put in crowded shelter homes and it made mockery of the system.

The government has recognised the need for payment to these workers by asking the private employers to pay their workers, but most of the employers do no have have money to pay.

The PIL has sought enforcement of fundamental right to life for migrant workers and payment of wages to them as they have been left without work or food following the nationwide lockdown due to coronavirus pandemic.

The plea said that fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution needs to be enforced for migrant workers who are severely affected by the lockdown ordered by the government on March 24.

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