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Gujarat govt attitude towards non-Gujarati migrants 'parochial': PIL in High Court

By Our Representative
A division bench of the Gujarat High Court consisting of Justices JB Pardiwala and SH Vora on Thursday heard a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking directions for the state government to ferry stranded migrant workers free of cost, insisting, they should not be compelled to pay “thousands of rupees” as ticket fares.
Senior advocate Anand Yagnik, appearing for the PIL filed by Congress MLA from Dasada Naushad Solanki, said, anywhere between 25 and 35 lakh inter-state migrant workers were stranded in Gujarat, and private luxury buses were charging between 2,000 and 20,000 per person as transporting charges, regretting the government was also collecting fare charges to send migrant workers by trains.
Yagnik said, “travelling” or “displacement allowance” was the responsibility of the principal employer, failing which, it becomes the responsibility, particularly during lockdown, of the Gujarat government to bear all the expenditure for the transportation of migrant workers.
He said, about 8,500 ST buses and about 35,000 drivers, conductors and other technical staff, who are paid salaries from the state exchequer, but they are currently unable to perform their normal obligations.
However, he regretted, while the ST buses have been used to bring back Gujarati students from Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra and elsewhere, as also Gujarati pilgrims stranded in Haridwar, Rishikesh, Vrindavan and Varanasi, the government is resorting to “blatant discrimination” towards non-Gujarati migrant workers and are not using ST buses for them.
Yagnik said 900 ST buses were used to bring back about 35,000 Gujarati migrant workers back to Saurashtra from Surat, insisting, Gujarat should stop being parochial and start using its more than 8,500 buses to ferry migrants and speed up transporting inter-state migrant workers facing pathetic conditions and hunger due to the lockdown.
Simultaneously taking up the cause of “more than 2.5 lakh inter-state migrant workers working in thousands of brick kiln units across the state, even as paying “pay attention to basic necessities of thousands of salt pan workers working in the Little Rann of Kutch”, Yagnik said, their plight continues to remain “unnoticed”.
Seeking court intervention to pay per person Rs 1,000 to each family member of 6.5 lakh construction workers immediately, Yagnik said, the current amount being paid, Rs 1,000 per family based on ration card, is “absolutely illogical.”
The High Court bench simultaneously heard other related petitions seeking an order calling upon private hospitals not to charge for the treatment of Covid-19 an amount more than that is charged in government hospitals; ensure adequate arrangement of beds in SVP and Civil hospitals of Ahmedabad; direct the government not to reduce number of testings per day; and begin collaborating with civil society.

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