At a time when people have been dying of hunger, the government has increased the amount of grain it is hoarding in its godowns. Instead of using its grain stocks to feed the poor and hungry during the coronavirus-lockdown crisis, Modi government was letting this food rot in its godowns. The government does not have proper storage facilities for stocking such a large amount of excess grain. Since much of this grain has been stored in sub-optimal conditions for long, a significant part of it has been damaged.
In just four months, between January 1 and May 1, the stock of rice and wheat that was not “readily issuable”, which included partially spoilt as well as damaged grain, increased from 7.2 lakh tonnes to 71.8 lakh tonnes. This is more than sufficient to provide 45 kgs of food grains as free ration for all families from March bringing different jojanas under one umbrella as CPI(ML) Red Star is demanding from the beginning. From khariff crop already 37 lakh tones of fresh stock has also arrived. In the absence of safe storage facilities large amount of food grains will get damaged during Monsoon months. In this context we should intensify the campaign for 45 kgsof foodgrains as free monthly ration for all families.
According to the announcement of Modi government on 30th May, after the 68 days long lockdown, it is going to start un-wounding it, as ‘Unlock 1’ from 1st June. The guidelines allowing a phased re-opening of most activities across the country, and limiting the lockdown only to containment zones for a month till June 30. It also cut the night curfew hours from 9 pm to 5 am. The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allow re-opening of malls, hotels, restaurants and places of worship from June 8 in Phase I of unwinding, they also allow unfettered movement of goods and persons between states and within states. States have, however, been given the freedom to prohibit certain activities or put suitable restrictions if they deem it necessary for containment of the Covid outbreak.
This announcement of the MHA has come out when the ground level facts are revealing the total failure of Modi government in all spheres. When the lockdown was abruptly announced by Modi on 24th March, if the number of Covid19 patients and dead were about 500 and 35, after the 68 days of it, these figures has jumped to nearly 1,80,000 and 5500. The new patients detected on 30th May had increased to 8,200. If this trend continues by 30th June the number of patients may go up to 5 lakhs, with corresponding increase in the number of dead. If India’s position among the top ten maximum infected countries is already 7th now, soon India’s position may go up further. Still, he has not announced any policy change to rectify the situation, to save you from Covid! Opposing this anti-humanitarian policy of Modi which may take the country to a great catastrophe we should mobilize all progressive forces and fight.
The migrant workers, it was the total confusion created by Modi’s abrupt order compelled your desperate flight to your villages, trying to get whatever conveyance available or by walking. What you have suffered and many still suffering is hundred times more painful than what happened at the time of India’s partition in 1947. More people died in your still continuing colossal human tragedy than due to Covid19 so far. Still, his government has not announced free ration and monthly allowance to your families in distress. He did not announce any assistance for the families of the dead on the road, on the rails; even for the children who lost their parents. Similarly, as you may have heard, after super cyclone Amphan caused colossal havoc in W. Bengal and Odisha, with many died and lakhs of families rendered homeless, his relief to these states was just 1,000 and 500 crores. At the same time, in addition to writing off another Rs 68,000 crores bank loans, all the economic packages announced by him are for the corporate houses and elite sections.
If the economy was in recession even before the pandemic outbreak due to his falty policies, it is going to face terrific collapse now. At the same time, spreading hate politics based on Islamophobia, he has divided the people more than ever, even during this pandemic. The worsening of relations with Nepal and border skirmishes with China shows that for pampering relations with Trump administration he is creating enmity with all neighboring countries, even at this time of pandemic. He is spending more lakhs of crores for military, when he has no money to help you, even for returning to your villages. While the list of his total failures is very long, his letter followed by his radio speech to us, while completing first year of his second term, shows it is the most insensitive government this country had after 1947. After committing crime against us, he is trying to confuse us, to cover up his gross failures in all fields by telling blatant lies and distorting facts.
Against these anger should mount among us, the workers and all the oppressed. Six years of Modi rule has made vast majority of us jobless and starving.
Working class comrades, after working many years in far away cities you have come back to your villages penniless; many of you had to take loans for return tickets. You, the returned migrant workers, and the agricultural workers and poor peasants in the villages, the condition is going to worsen in coming days. After long slumber, though Supreme Court ordered to provide food, shelter and return journey free to all workers, the NHRC called the treatment of migrant workers by the Railways as barbaric, no action is going to be taken by Modi’s govt. The present heat wave in North and impending monsoon shall aggravate the poverty and distress of all of you. When Modi’s economic policies, now aggravated manifold under the pandemic, is worsening joblessness, the social and economic crisisis going to become more acute. Even before the Covid19 pandemic broke out, the economy in the country had reached deep recession. As all manufacturing works and small/medium units were closed down following the lockdown, there is acute financial crisis, with the GDP growth plunging steeply. An immediate recovery is difficult in present world situation. The burden of this crisis also will be thrown on the backs of us, the people, vast majority of us, including the lower middle class and peasantry are going to face acute distress.
Contrary to governments’ claims, the condition of the toiling people of all states is very bad. Casual/contract workers, fisher people, rural and urban poor as well as the poor peasantry who constitute more than two third of the population, after more then two months of lockdown, your joblessness is going to become really horrible. As nearly 20 million of you migrant workers have returned, with more millions yet to reach, not only the Covid19 cases among you and your families shall increase, but also your poverty and joblessness. The token amount allotted for more MGNREGS work,is not going to improve the situation.
Comrades, discuss these facts with your families, friends and villagers, or people around you, wherever you are. As these families are left jobless and foodless, the already existing starvation situation is going to reach alarming proportions. Joining with the progressive forces start a campaign with the following demands: Provide 45 kgs foodgrains monthly as free ration to all families; and Rs. 8, 000 monthly allowance to all jobless contract/casual workers, unemployed youth and to all needy people for six months from 1st June.
Make it a massive campaign uniting with all those agree with it. Decide slogans according to conditions in your area. Let us compel the central and state government to provide it soon; If they do not agree, let us launch mass movement powerful enough to achieve these demands!
After 68 days of lockdown, as a result of total failure of Modi government and its agencies, the no of patients are going to cross two lakh barrier and the number of dead is also increasing accordingly. Still, except for his sermons, Modi rule is not taking any steps to contain it. Still sufficient medical equipments, testing kits, ventilators, safety kits and other requirements are not available. It is not to bringing the private hospitals under government control to fight Covid. It is not allotting necessary fund. We should join hands to launch a powerful movement to compel Modi government to give top priority to contain Covid19 from spreading further and to cure those affected by it.
Using the lockdown announced to contain Covid and powers given to police and para-military to enforce it as cover, spreading Islamophobia the activists from Jamia and other areas belonging to Muslim minority are arrested and detained under UAPA. While it is clear as day light that the pogrom in Northeast Delhi was organized by the RSS, the Muslims are arrested in large numbers and even the anti-CAA activists are also arrested as accused in this case! Many intellectuals and human rights activists are arrested alleging as Maoist supporters. Similarly, in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand etc thousands of Adivasis are also detained for years alleging they were helping Maoists. Many of these are under detention for years under UAPA. Some of them are sick. Under Modi’s corporate fascist rule all democratic action in J&K and Northeast is also virtually banned. We appeal to all democratic forces, political organizations, mass movements to come forward to demand the release of all poltical prisoners.
The NPR/NRC/CAA movement was advancing powerfully when the pandemic broke out. Modi govt used the pandemic as a cover to suppress it. Now, using the Census as a cover and state terror it may re-start it. So, let us start discussion with all who were participating and playing significant role and start preparations to re-launch the movement.
CPI(ML) Red Star
1st June 2020
Are you thinking why without making any plan about how to help you all return home Narendra Modi suddenly announced lockdown on 24th March? What about migrant workers? Why were you compelled to walk hundreds of miles to reach your homes as no government bothered to arrange for your return? Are you wondering how they are spending thousands of crores of rupees to erect statues but have no money to spend for your food? Have no arrangement for sending you home by train, compelling you to live like cattle here and there in this phase of Corona? Why is the government exposing you to the danger of Corona in this careless fashion?
To the Workers of organised private sectors! Have you ever thought why you are not getting your wages for lockdown period? Why in spite of government order owners are refusing to pay your wages? Why within a week parliamentary committee has given report that the owners are not bound to pay? Why even judges are commenting that if the lockdown is to extend beyond two months it would be difficult for factory owners to pay the salary to the workers? As if it is very easy to run your livelihood without salary!
To the workers of Public Enterprise and Government Employee! It is supposed that government is the ideal employer. So we can say government employees are most secure and well off. Since the neo liberal policies government employees are facing various types of oppression. Very recently BSNL workers have faced disastrous consequence. Now the Modi government is trying to freeze DA. Trying to cut wages citing losses due to the lockdown. Are you not wondering why? Why is the government not imposing special taxes on the millionaires, rather than chalking out a hundred and one ways to give them relief?
Have you ever thought how the government is daring to take such steps? In this phase it has been clear that migrant workers are crores and crores in number. Though organised workers are decreasing, still they are also some crores in number. Government employees and public sector workers are also in huge numbers. Workers are great not only in number but also hold the keys to the Nation's life. The nation stands on the toil of the workers and peasants. But are you even recognised by the government and entrepreneurs?
First of all, this corona crisis shows all the more clearly that the nation is not run with your interests in mind. 'National interest' has come to mean the interest of a handful of bloodsuckers. The government is interested only in them, their profits. So the lockdown has been declared keeping in mind only their security.
Secondly, you are not organised. It is difficult for migrant workers to organise immediately, but even workers in the organised sector are not organised. Though there are unions in the organised sector and some unorganised workers' unions also, but these are mostly under the reformist leadership and the focus is not on anything more than some wage enhancement in your own sector. Since not getting strengthened in the social sphere, owners and bloodsuckers are snatching your bargaining capacity more and more even in your own sphere of influence. You are seeing that now even the government, supposedly the ideal Entrepreneur, is imposing ordinance for 12-hour work day.
So, get organised.
Today is the birthday of Karl Marx, the great leader of the working class. He said, "Workers have nothing lose but their chains and they have a world to win." Workers have no country, no religion, no community. As workers, everywhere their interest is the same. Without being united you cannot lose your chains. All of you can see that if you are organised no government can dare to neglect you. You have to organise to snatch the democracy from the Millionaires, Imperialists, Communal, Fascist forces.
The great leader of the workers comrade Lenin said workers are either revolutionary or nothing. Corona situation is proving that your past glory has dimmed. You are nothing. So, wake up! Get organised! March to the revolution.
CPI(ML) Red Star
5th May, 2020
After two months of unspeakable misery caused to millions of migrants in the country due to the national lockdown, which led to the loss of hundreds of lives, the Supreme Court took suo moto cognizance of the issue on Tuesday, May 26.
Till then, the SC had been in a state of denial, unquestioningly believing the executive's version that "all is well". The cases brought before it concerning several issues relating to migrant workers, such as payment of wages, food security, shelter homes, transport and access to trains were closed by the court without effective orders (detailed and documented in this article). The passive response of the apex court, and the excessive deference shown by it to the executive even in the middle of an unprecedented humanitarian crisis , had come under widespread criticism from ex-judges, senior advocates, and many members of legal fraternity, including law students. Even the ordinary citizens were anguished at the inaction of the apex court, going by many of the comments expressed in social media.
Former Supreme Court judges, Justices Madan B Lokur and V Gopala Gowda likened the Court's behavior to that of the emergency-era Supreme Court, where it had displayed a shocking lack of concern for the most basic rights of the citizens. Former HC judges, Justices A P Shah and Kailash Gambhir, criticized the Court's abdication of responsibilities. All these jurists were unanimous in their opinion that the Supreme Court let down the migrants amidst a grave constitutional crisis.
Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, minced no words in expressing disappointment at the Court's failure in holding the executive accountable. "Judges cannot sit in ivory tower and be blindfolded to the miseries of the citizens of India", he said. "This is not an emergency. The fundamental rights are not suspended. Yet, the judiciary has suspended the effective enforcement of fundamental rights", he added.
Expressing anguish at the passive response of the Supreme Court to the issue of migrant workers crisis amid the COVID-19 lockdown, Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta commented that the top court "could have done a lot". "The migrants walk home is not a casual irresponsible act of a citizen. It's a moment of existential crisis for them. The Supreme Court could have done a lot. Only they could have", he said.
Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde commented that the Court's inaction amounted to 'social distancing from the powerless'. "Judicial abnegation by the top court is not healthy for an institution trusted as being the protector and enforcer of rights", he said.
Recently, several leading lawyers - P Chidambaram, Anand Grover, Indira Jaising, Mohan Katarki, Siddharth Luthra, Santhosh Paul, Mahalaxmi Pavani, Kapil Sibal, Chander Uday Singh, Vikas Singh, Prashant Bhushan, Iqbal Chagla, Aspi Chinoy, Mihir Desai, Janak Dwarkadas, Rajani Iyer, Yusuf Muchhala, Rajiv Patil, Navroz Seervai, Gayatri Singh and Sanjay Singhvi - wrote to the CJI seeking urgent intervention in the migrants issue.
"This situation was compounded by the Hon'ble Supreme Court's failure to intervene in mid-day when millions of migrant workers had commences travelling home on foot, or by trucks", they said in the letter.
"As a consequence of the Court's failure to intervene, even though the number of Covid cases were then only a few hundred at the time, the millions of migrant workers were unable to proceed to their hometowns and were compelled to remain in small cramped tenements or rooms or on the pavements, without any employment or livelihood, and even a definite source of food. In fact this enforced stay in cramped quarters only exposed such poor worker to a higher risk of Covid infection", they added.
Meanwhile, many High Courts showed the way by staying true to their constitutional role of acting as a check on the executive.
Gujarat HC's Model of Holding the Executive Accountable
The Gujarat High Court took suo moto notice of a host of issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown. What is commendable is that the Gujarat HC was not seeking to substitute its wisdom with that of the executive. Rather, it sought explanation from the government regarding its plan of action to deal with the issues to ascertain if it passed the constitutional muster.
The Court intervened only when it found that the government's responses were grossly unreasonable, or blatantly unsatisfactory. For example, the bench comprising Justices J B Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora was quick to dismiss the puerile explanation given by the State for not doing enough number of COVID-19 tests. The Government told the bench that more number of tests could lead to 70% of the population testing positive, and that this could lead to "fear psychosis". The Court emphatically said that this cannot be a reason for reducing the number of tests.
Also, the Court did not shy away from highlighting the unsatisfactory conditions in the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, which was leading to high mortality rate of COVID-19 patients.
Unlike the SC, the High Court did not turn its face away from the plight of migrants, and passed directions to ensure food and shelter to them. As regards their travel, the Court directed the railways to either waive off their one way charges, or the State to bear their fare.
Karnataka HC Nudged Govt into Action
Similar was the response of the Karnataka High Court with respect to the migrants issues. The Court demonstrated that by simply asking the right questions and making the relevant observations, the judiciary can get the government to act. Actual directions may not be always necessary. A bench comprising Chief Justice A S Oka and Justice B V Nagarathna of the HC observed that inability to pay rail fare should not become a ground to deprive migrants of their right to travel to their native places. This, the court explained, was due to the fact that their lack of income is directly linked to the lockdown imposed by the State. So, State has the constitutional obligation to mitigate their sufferings.
This led to the Karnataka Government taking a stand that it will bear the travel cost for Karnataka natives to come back from other states. In response, the Court asked if such a stand would not amount to discrimination against migrants within Karnataka, on the basis of place of origin.
Following the sustained interrogation from the Court, the Karnataka Government diluted its stance by deciding to bear the cost of migrants' travel from Karnataka to their native states.
Court Would Be Failing In Its Role If It Doesn't React: AP HC
The Andhra Pradesh High Court observed that the Court would be failing in its role, if it does not react to the issue of migrants being forced to walk hundreds of kilometers to their native places.
A division bench ofJustice DVSS Somayajulu and Justice Lalitha Kanneganti passed a slew of directions to ensure proper availability of food, toilets and medical help etc. for these migrants. The Court observed that the situation was "alarming" and that "immediate intervention" of the Court was necessary.
Later, another bench headed by Chief Justice J K Maheshwari passed directions for creating temporary sheds for walking migrants, and to ensure their travel by bus/train within 48 hours of registration with the nodal officers.
Pity to See Migrants Walking: Madras HC
The Madras HC suo moto sought an action taken report from the State Government and the Centre on the steps taken for the relief of migrants. The Court posed 12 specific queries to the Central and State Governments such as data on the migrant workers stranded in every state, the assistance being provided to them, the number of migrant workers who died on their way to their home states, the compensation for the families of the deceased migrant workers, and the assistance being provided to those who have returned to their native states, "It is a pity to see the migrant labourers walking for days together to reach their native places and in the process, some of them had lost their lives due to accidents. The Government authorities of all the States should have extended their human services to those migrant labourers", observed the HC bench comprising Justices N Kirubakaran and R Hemalatha.
The High Court of Kerala has been monitoring the steps taken by the Kerala Government to provide food and shelter to guest workers. The Orissa HC and Bombay HC had taken suo moto notice of the issue of migrants, and passed necessary directions. The Bombay HC however deferred the hearing taking note of the pendency of similar issues in SC.
The Telangana High Court made a powerful declaration that medical emergency cannot be an excuse for the government to trample upon the rights under Article 21 of the Constitution. Holding thus, the Court proceeded to quash a Government Order, which prohibited citizens from getting COVID-19 testing done from private laboratories, even if they have the requisite approval. The HC also sought report from the Government on the COVID-19 tests and regarding the measures taken to allay the plight of migrants.
Importance of Public Criticism
Over All, the situation seemed to be a re-dux of emergency era, where the High Courts asserted their independent role to protect the rights of the citizens, despite the SC choosing to bow before the powers usurped by the executive.
In the face of mounting criticism, the SC has now chosen to act by taking suo moto notice of the issue.
This development also underlines the important role of informed,constructive criticism in a democracy. A bunch of vigilant citizens, who constantly demand legitimacy and justifications from centres of power, can prevent the institutions from completely failing in their constitutional duties.
It took a considerable amount of public criticism for the SC to say that there have been "inadequacies and certain lapses" in the measures taken by the governments for migrants welfare, deviating from its earlier "what can we do?" stand.
Let us hope that this course-correction by the apex court, though belated, leads to mitigation of the sufferings of the millions of migrant workers in the country.
Text of the letter Sent by Senior Advocates to CJI
To The Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India and His Companion Judges
Bhagwan Dass Road
It is with great anguish and dismay that we write to you as the citizens of India and senior members of the Bar. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has a pivotal constitutional role in protecting and safeguarding the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens of this country, and particularly the vast swathes of our population who eke out a living near or below the poverty line or minimum wages, and are even in normal times barely able to survive with dignity and respect. The Supreme Courts constitutional role and duty assumes even greater importance in the time of a crisis, such as the present when the entire country and its economy was “locked down” from 24th March by an order of the Central Government. More than 75% of the Indian work force earn their livelihoods in the informal or unorganized sector, and for them a stoppage of economic activity in the Medium, Small and Micro sectors has resulted in an immediate loss of employment, livelihood and the means of sustenance.
The “lock down” was imposed on 24th March without any consideration being paid to the plight of these poor, especially migrant labour [who number in the crores] earning their livelihood in the major cities, and for whom social distancing was and is a utopian impossibility. These poor citizens who were faced with the prospect of being cooped up in small cramped tenements/rooms or on the pavements, without any employment or livelihood or even a definite source of food and were thus compelled to start walking back to their home States, often thousands of kilometers away, with little children, family members or elderly parents. They were forced to do so as the Central Governments lock down had precluded them from taking trains or buses back to their home towns. The movement even at that juncture involved lakhs of poor, hungry and scared migrant labour. The Government, initially, sought to prevent such migrants from leaving and returning home.
While hearing a public interest litigation on the plight of the migrant workers, Alakh Alok Srivastava v. Union of India [Writ Petition (Civil) No. 468 of 2020], the Hon’ble Supreme Court considered the Status Report filed by the Learned Solicitor General, representing the Union of India, which referred to the Government’s circular dated 29th March 2020 prohibiting movement and transportation of migrant labourers and a direction to shift them to relief shelter homes and relief camps instead and the Solicitor General’s statement before this Court that as of 31st March, 2020, “no migrant person was walking on the roads in an attempt to reach his/ her home towns villages.” The Hon’ble Supreme Court, vide order dated 31.03.2020, expressed satisfaction at the steps taken by the Union of India to combat Covid-19 and proceeded to observe that “the migration of labourers working in the cities was triggered by panic created by fake news that the lock down would continue for more than 3 months.” As a consequence of the Court’s failure to intervene, even though the number of Covid cases were then only a few hundred at the time, the millions of migrant workers were unable to proceed to their hometowns and were compelled to remain in small cramped tenements or rooms or on the pavements, without any employment or livelihood, and even a definite source of food. In fact this enforced stay in cramped quarters only exposed such poor worker to a higher risk of Covid infection
Moreover, the Government’s statement has been clearly shown to be contrary to the facts. Several reports suggest that more than 90% of migrant workers did not receive Government rations in many States and were suffering from dire food shortage.
This failure to intervene in March, subsequently resulted in a massive migration of millions of workers by early May, when migrant labourers who were fed up with being virtually incarcerated for the previous 6 weeks, without employment or wages decided that they would be better off trying to go back to their homes. Significantly by this time the Covid infections in the country had crossed 50,000 and a significant number of these migrant workers were also infected with Covid. Even at this stage, the Government initially sought to obstruct their travel/movement on foot or by trucks. Subsequently the Government agreed to their movement by bus and trains [shramik specials]. However, even when the arrangements were made by the States to transport the migrant workers who wish to return home after having been cooped up for over 30-40 days, onerous conditions were sought to be imposed on them, such as obtaining a medical certificate after getting themselves tested at great cost to themselves. When arrangements are made to transport them by road, they were often left at the borders of the receiving states, which at times were unwilling to make any further arrangements for them to let them enter or reach their homes, or provide transport, almost as if this was not one country with a common citizenship. The right to life, liberty and freedom of movement of these hapless poor millions was rendered virtually meaningless in such circumstances.
Civil society had risen to the occasion and attempted to provide succour, food and shelter for these poor migrants. However, having regard to the millions involved and the distances to their hometowns civil society cannot, in real measure provide an adequate measure of succour or redress. As this situation had been brought about by the executive orders of the Central Government imposing a lock down, prohibiting public transport and interstate travel, it was necessarily the duty and constitutional obligation of the Government of India [with the State Governments] to ensure that these millions were expeditiously enabled during lockdown1 itself to travel home safely. However, both in during lockdown 1 and in lockdown 2 no steps were taken to redress the horrendous plight of these poor millions.
On 15th May 2020, a three-judge bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed an application seeking immediate directions to all the District Magistrates to identify the migrant workers who are walking on roads, provide them with appropriate food and shelter facility and facilitate their travel back to their home states free of cost. Without going into the merits of the said application was dismissed and left it for the State Governments to sort this out. We respectfully submit that this institutional deference to statements made on behalf of the Government and the Court’s apparent indifference to this enormous humanitarian crisis, would if not rectified immediately, amount to the Court having abdicated its constitutional role and duty to these teeming millions of poor, hungry migrants.
Indeed, the current migrant crisis is symptomatic of how the constitutional promises of equality, life, freedom and dignity have been totally ignored by the Government while imposing arbitrary executive measures. The Hon’ble Supreme Court’s unwillingness to hold the Government to account and to provide succour to these poor millions, will severely erode its constitutional role and status as the guardian of the fundamental rights of the people. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has a glorious tradition of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that changed the face of Indian constitutional jurisprudence forever, ranging from eradication of bonded labour, prison reforms, environmental compliances, and right to food, amongst others. Each of these PILs has resulted in far-reaching legal and policy changes positively affecting the lives of the millions of people. The Hon’ble Supreme Court’s deference to the Government and it’s unwillingness or expressed helplessness in the face of the above situation, casts a long shadow on our Country’s constitutional structure.
In the midst of the executive imposed Covid-19 lockdowns, the Hon’ble Supreme Court cannot retreat into a self-effacing deference, leaving millions of Indian citizens, especially those who are poor, vulnerable and impoverished, to the mercy of the executive, reminding us of ADM Jabalpur when detenues were left to the tender mercy of the executive with “Diamond bright Diamond hard” hope that something would be done.
The rights of citizens, especially the poor, are being violated with impunity by the executive in the name of addressing the pandemic. Millions have been forced to remain cooped up in slums or small tenements for weeks on end without employment or livelihood and in total denial of their rights to life and liberty.
The deference shown by the Hon’ble Supreme Court to the Government’s bland assertions and the expressed helplessness of the Hon’ble Supreme Court on the grounds of “issue being policy decision” or “inability to monitor” in the face of an unfolding human disaster, where millions of migrant workers are on the road, walking thousands of kilometers to reach their homes, is a matter of involving the violation of fundamental rights of millions of our poor citizens on account of executive action, that needs urgent attention by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on its judicial side.
The migrant workers’ issues are not a “policy issue.” They raise constitutional issues requiring a strict scrutiny of the executive action which has resulted in this situation. The core issues are of protection of the fundamental rights of these millions of poor migrant workers to life and liberty and their right to move freely throughout India and to return home, with safety and dignity guaranteed under Articles 14, 19(1) and 21 of the Constitution. If the Court is to fulfil its sacred constitutional role and duty, it must necessarily hold the executive accountable and require it to take steps to fulfil its obligations under the Constitution.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court has developed the jurisdiction of continuous mandamus to monitor executive action to ensure that orders of this Hon’ble Court are indeed followed. The apparent deference to executive action and the reliance on bald [and patently incorrect] statements made on behalf of the executive and the expression of helplessness on this part of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to monitor executive action, severely impairs this Courts constitutional status and duty.
This Hon’ble Court has the power bestowed by the Constitution of India under Article 142 to undertake any measure to do complete justice. The show of helplessness does no justice to the motto of this court “Yato dharmastato Jaya”
We address this letter because we believe that the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s failure to protect the rights of the hapless millions of migrant workers in March and its failure to scrutinize carefully the executives actions, which resulted in them being compelling to stay in cramped unhygienic accommodation without employment and wages and often without proper food and with a much higher risk of Covid infection that severely and excessively impaired the fundamental rights of the poorest sections of our citizens. This situation was compounded by the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s Courts failure to intervene in mid-May when millions of migrant workers had commenced travelling home on foot, or by trucks.
We believe that the survival of Indian democracy and the rule of law, particularly in the current Covid-19 pandemic, is dependent on the Hon’ble Supreme Court actively fulfilling its constitutional obligation of being the guarantor of the fundamental rights of citizens against State action.
The migrant workers crisis is continuing even today, with millions still stranded on roads at railway stations and state borders. We urge the Hon’ble Supreme Court to intervene and ensure that adequate transport arrangements, food and shelter are immediately provided for by the Central and State governments free of cost. At this time, we recall the words of Martin Luther King Jr. who said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Signed : Chidambaram, Prashant Bhushan, Iqbal Chagla, Aspi Chinoy, Mihir Desai, Janak Dwarkadas, Rajani Iyer, Yusuf Muchhala, Rajiv Patil, Navroz Seervai, Gayatri Singh, Anand Grover, Indira Jaising, Mohan Katarki, Sidharth Luthra, Santosh Paul, Mahalaxmi Pavani, Kapil Sibal, Chander Uday Singh, Vikas Singh, Sanjay Singhvi
In These Days when the whole human9ty is in the grip of Covid-19 pandemic, we remember how relevant was the warnings of Stephen Hawking, a great scientist and philosopher, in his last interview before death last year. According to him, the arrogant attitude of the political class he saw around him shall lead the intensifying ecological destruction to a catastrophe, to possible destruction of this species itself. But the capitalist-imperialist system which has succeeded to lead the re-creation of the whole world in its own image to its highest stage under aggressive neoliberal globalization during last four decades, boasting about reducing the world in to a globalized village with digitalization and utilization of intelligent machines reaching commanding heights. They were happy about the accumulation of most of the wealth of the society and nature with the top 1%, about development of the most advanced weapons including nuclear weaponry capable of destroying this earth a hundred times, and the great cities with glittering malls, highways and techno parks they have developed. They were laughing at all suggestions that climate change, global warming like phenomena are manifestations of the ecological destruction caused by their brand of development, shall lead to global environmental catastrophe.
So, it was not surprising if Trump walked out of Kyoto Protocol, or last year, all imperialist leaders and junior partners assembled at Madrid almost dumped the talk about environmental dangers as rubbish propagated by ecological fundamentalists! At the same time, in order to pacify the masses who were suffering under ever-intensifying climate change and global warming which had started all fields of life, all governments have their ministries of environment, not for protecting environment, but to find way outs to help the loot of what is left of the natural resources
But Covid19 threat has shattered the globalized world, forcing everyone to their corners, with continuous reminders of the need for body distancing, repeated hand washing, against touching your face with your hand, etc. What happened? Is nature finding out ways to wipe out a species which was claiming to have conquered it, how the SARS break out in 2003, MERS in 2012 and now more dangerous novel corona virus which spreads very fast are different from earlier pandemics in long human recorded history of five or more millennia, can earlier viruses can mutate under increasing climate change and paralyzing the humans, are the scientists who have warned against the appearance of more dangerous viruses which were dormant for many millennis with the breaking of the huge glazier in both poles under global warming correct etc were coming under for few days even in mainstream media.
But, as what is happening in China soon after it partially recovered from the Covid19 pandemic, and what we are seeing in US and almost all other countries including India, shows that the capitalist chieftons and their partners everywhere in power have once again pooh-poohed all these talks as happened with the SARS virus in 2003, MERS in 2012, or when super cyclone Amphan like serious natural calamities becoming very frequent, or when environmentalists put forward the dangers inherent in the devastating development policies they are pursuing, and have gone back to business as usual after impatiently waiting for the end of the lockdowns and even before any effective vaccines and medicines to control Covid19 are developed or the Covid spread in their countries are brought under control, Trump like neo-fascists are showing the way and still continue to lord over the working class and the oppressed people again, with all incentives from the state going to the corporate houses and elite classes, while the whole burden of the pandemic is being thrown to the backs of the masses once again as we are witnessing all around us. The bourgeois intellectuals may even claim it as another end of history!
Our Party Program points out (Chapter 2, first para)” …during this period (after 1947 transfer of power when our country came under neo-colonial domination), especially after the crisis of the 1970s, with the mad rush for exploitation of natural and human resources utilizing the unprecedented
technological advances under the imperialist perspective of development, ever- intensifying ecological devastation has started becoming a major factor both at the international and the national level. It has given rise to a new, fifth major contradiction, at both international and national levels, the contradiction between capital and nature, along with the other four major contradictions…”, applying Marxist teachings to our concrete situation.
“3.7 Under neo-colonization, due to the policies implemented in the name of development which actually serve the interests of imperialists and their lackeys, ecological devastation has become an ever intensifying factor… 'Global warming' like phenomena and the nuclear catastrophe created by the nuclear arms race, existing nuclear plants which are 'nuclear time bombs' as once again proved by the meltdown of Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Refusing to learn from the intensification of the contradictions with Pakistan following the nuclear arms race started by it from Pokhran nuclear blast, presently Indian government has signed the nuclear agreement with the US imperialists, further surrendering whatever sovereignty the country had. The construction of new nuclear plants under imperialist dictates threatens further environmental disaster. The imperialists are dumping industrial and nuclear waste in countries like India. All these developments have made the struggle for ecological protection one of the basic components of social progress”
Again, while explaining the program of PDR, it is stated: “6.16 Based on the understanding that the contradiction between capital and nature has become a major contradiction at both national and international level, concrete plans should be worked out to protect environment and to develop the perspective on development taking this important question in to consideration”.
History teaches that, just because its barbarous character is more exposed, just because the vast masses of people are facing more brutal plunder and oppression, the ruling system is not going to change on its own will. As pointed out above, this truth based on facts is once again glaringly exposed before us, from the mad rush towards starting economic activities even when the burden of fighting against the pandemic is also almost thrown to the back of the people The only way out before the working class and all oppressed classes and sections, not only for putting an end to the present inhuman social system, but also for reversing the process of intensification of ecological catastrophe to save the human species from its extinction, is to overthrow the global capitalist imperialist system and its junior partners everywhere. Only through the accomplishment of this task, the working class and oppressed people can advance towards the only alternative before them, socialism according to present concrete conditions, to achieve a society without exploitation and based on people’s democracy
In continuation to Modi’s speech on 12th May announcing Rs 20 lakh crores stimulus package, the FM Nirmala Seetharaman has started explaining how this stimulus shall be implemented in a series of press conferences from 13th May. Today she has started this process, under the guise of self-reliance, a series of measures are announced for MSMEs after changing the definition by raising their investment and turnover limit. But, there was not even a mention of the informal and unorganised sectors. No Immediate relief for the dying many millions of migrant workers. No direct money transfer to the starving millions. At the same time, she announced many tax giveaways to middle classes. The state governments are completely ignored, when they are in extreme crisis on account of heavy responsibility to deal with COVID-19, and nothing to rejuvenate their financial position.. There was not even mention of the question of distributing the GST arrears due to states. Her high sounding and rhetorical presentation, had nothing concrete for the most deprived. There is a reference to more liberalisation in FDI, labour, land and necessary legal changes for that. But details are not announced..
When the whole world is in lockdown, Modi has no other option other than appealing for becoming "Atmanirbhar" (self-reliance). On the other hand, the "Make in India" program, announced by him after ascending to power in 2014, has become a farce and that slogan was a cover for transforming India in to a dustbin/dumping ground for MNCs In view of the announcements yet to come, especially related to liberalisation in FDI, labour laws, land acquisition, etc., the fate of Atmanirbhar is not going to be different. Meanwhile, the 15 items taken up today are oriented towards rejuvenating middle classes with tax exemptions and money availability while nothing is there for the most deprived inter-state migrant workers. No mention on the transfer of GST dues to State Govts. COVID is an opportunity for shoring up the vote banks for the ruling regime. In the name of atma-nirbharatha, Modi is continuing his organized plan to hoodwink the masses to implement the RSS agenda. When Covid19 broke out, not perturbed by another wave of its outbreak, as WHO and many scentists are warning, Modi is trying to strengthen his corporate fascist rule, helping the mad race of the foreign and native corporate forces for further accumulation of natural wealth. So, showing any feeling about the plight of the millions of migrant workers and their families is alien to Modi.
K N Ramachandran
CPI (ML) Redstar
13th May 2020