The Supreme Court has directed the petitioner to make a representation before the government on his plea seeking directions to use of Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) towards repatriation of the economically weaker Indian including migrant labourers stranded in Gulf countries. The bench said that the Court cannot pass orders on policy decisions.
A three judge bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice MR Shah was hearing a petition filed by Pravasi Legal Cell which submitted that though the Government of India has decided to facilitate the return of Indian national stranded abroad by aircraft and naval ships, however the government has decided to charge a fare for such repatriation.
The petitioner has further submitted that majority of Indians in the Gulf countries are involved in low- skilled labour, who are going through tough times and are struggling to meet even their basic needs amid COVID 19 lockdown. Therefore fixing fare for repatriation would further put additional burdern on such persons.
The petitioner has thus suggested “the use of the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF), which was set up in 2009, aimed at assisting Overseas Indian nationals in times of distress and emergency in the ‘most deserving cases’ on a ‘means tested basis’ for repatriating poor migrant labourers.”
“ICWF was set up by the Government of India for critical support in emergency evacuation of Indian nationals from conflict zones, countries affected by natural disasters and other challenging situations,” said the plea.
The petitioner has further highlighted the plight of the Indian migrant workers, who in the wake of lockdown in several Gulf states have been quarantined in Labour accommodation camps which are “notoriously overcrowded.”
Moreover, the workers in these cramped camps are more vulnerable to spread of the virus where the camps do not allow for any type of social distancing. The petitioner has further stated that “a typical Labour accommodation in the Gulf Countries is home to hundreds of thousands of men, most of whom live in cramped dormitories, often packed eight or 10 to a room, making it extremely difficult to stop the transmission of the virus. Communal kitchens and toilets shared by scores of men are often unsanitary and caked in grime.”
-India Legal Bureau