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India's RTI watchdog asks Central govt to make public all data on stranded migrants

By Our Representative
The Central Information Commission (CIC), in an “out-of-turn” hearing of a complaint filed a senior activist Venkatesh Nayak has issued an advisory under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, to the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC), Government of India, asking him upload all available information about stranded migrant workers on an official website within a week's time. This information should be updated from time to time, it added.
CLC, which is under the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment, wrote a letter on April 8 to its 20 regional heads to collect details about every stranded migrant worker and send it to New Delhi within three days. Yet, on May 5, 2020, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) claimed in an unsigned reply that the Statistics Section of the Office of the CLC did not have this information.
This made Nayak to file a complaint with CIC on the same day, as the activist believed, CLC was seeking to “hide” a significant information from public view, as innumerable migrant workers continue to suffer amidst Covid-19 crisis “despite the well-meaning efforts of various authorities and private actors.” CIC took up the matter for hearing on May 27.
Argued Nayak in his complaint, as a founder member of the International Labour Organisation which was constituted 101 years ago, in 1919 India had ratified the Labour Statistics Convention, 1985 in April 1992, which wants all states to compile “statistics of the structure and distribution of the economically active population ... for detailed analysis and to serve as benchmark data."
In an additional submission to CIC, Nayak argued that the Joint Secretary, Union Home Ministry, had said on May 23, 2020, there were four crore migrant workers across the country. Of these 75 lakh had been ferried to their home states on trains and buses.
By the government's own admission there were 3.25 crore migrant workers who had not yet returned to their home states
According to Nayak, “Even the four crore figure was based on 2011 Census whose detailed Data Tables were released as late as in July 2019... By the government's own admission there were 3.25 crore migrant workers who had not yet returned to their home states.”
Taking serious note of this, CIC “extensively cited from the orders of the Supreme Court of India (the suo motu case) and the High Courts of Orissa, Madras and Andhra Pradesh which have taken judicial notice of the extreme levels of distress and suffering of migrant workers, resulting in scores of deaths”, said Nayak in an email alert to Counterview.
CIC in its order, asked CLC to “upload maximum data as available with them in relation to the migrant workers stranded in relief camps or shelters organised by governments or at the workplace of their employers or generally clustered in any district and wherever possible cumulative numbers of the migrant workers and the names of the districts from where the data is collected...”
Asking CLC to “continuously update” its website with as and when additional data is received from time to time”, CIC reasoned, "The need of the hour is to get concrete data regarding the number of stranded migrant workers across the country so that necessary measures may be taken by the concerned State Governments/ UTs to provide some relief to them...”

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