New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court there is a possibility that 3 out of 10 people moving from cities to rural areas could be carrying coronavirus.
A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao held the hearing through video conferencing on plea by advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava seeking directions to provide food and shelter to migrant workers left helpless after the imposition of a nationwide lockdown to control the outbreak of the highly contagious coronavirus.
Solicitor General, representing the Centre, contended 28 lakh people have been screened and nearly 3.5 lakh people are being monitored. Mehta said according to the last census, there were about 4.14 crore persons who have migrated for work, and now backward migration is happening due to coronavirus fear.
"There is a possibility of 3 out of 10 moving from cities to rural areas carrying the virus", Mehta submitted before the bench, insisting so far the rural India is not affected by coronavirus.
He told the bench that nearly 22.8 lakh migrant workers have been provided food and shelter by the government after they left the cities for their native villages. Many of these were stranded, after being stopped by authorities, on the way back to their villages. The Union Home Secretary, who was also part of the hearing, told the apex court that 6.63 lakh persons have been provided shelter so far.
The Centre's representatives told the apex court that it is trying to ensure that no migration is allowed, as it will be risky for migrant workers and their respective village population. Mehta contended there is also resistance from the villages to allow these people to come back in the backdrop of the outbreak of coronavirus infection. "I have instructions to state that no one is now on the road. Anyone who was outside has been taken to the available shelters", said the Centre.
Mehta also contended that midday meal kitchens, railway caterers, religious trusts and corporate are being roped in to provide food to the people in these shelters.