Gujarat HC gives directions on affordable COVID19 treatment and for starving, helpless migrants

Guj HC goes big, takes cognizance of starving migrants, asks state to regulate fee structure of pvt hospitals


The court has asked the state to seriously consider the suggestions of the court and gave several directions to ensure migrants are fed and to make COVID29 treatment affordable

The Gujarat High Court has taken suo moto cognizance of the plight of migrant workers and their families in Ahmedabad as reported in Ahmedabad Mirror article titled “Give us food or kill us Now”. This article spoke about how more than 200 people – daily wagers and their families – who have been living on footpaths near Ellisbridge say they haven’t had a morsel to eat for the past four days, volunteers used to bring them food, but since total lockdown, even that has stopped.

The court, on May 11, noted that even though the state government is doing its best, situation seems to be going out of hand. The bench comprising of Justices JB Pardiwala and Ilesh J Vora noted, “It appears that there is no proper coordination amongst various departments of the State Government. What is most essential as of now is a more humane approach or touch.” It also observed, “In   such circumstances,   it   is   the   paramount   duty   of   the   State   Authorities   to ensure that its citizen do not go hungry. Necessary arrangements need to be   made   for   the   distribution   of   food   packets   all   over   the   city   of Ahmedabad, areas on the outskirts and also other parts of the State of Gujarat.”

Further referring to an Indian Express article titled “Migrant workers made to wait for 19 hours in Gujarat to board train to UP”, the court acknowledged the plight of migrants. The bench said, “It appears that the migrant workers are suffering the most. They are desperate to go back to their homes i.e. to their native States across the country. We appreciate the efforts of the State authorities which   are   being   made   to   transport   the   migrant   workers   to   their respective States by way of Trains, Buses, etc. However, it seems that before they are able to board the Train or a Bus they have to suffer like anything for hours together in this scorching heat of almost 45 degrees.”

The Court then asked the state government to come up with some modalities or plans to smoothen and ease the process so that the migrant workers may not have to wait for hours and hours together before they are able to board the trains or bus.

Further, the court also took note of the directive issued by the DGP, Gujarat asking the police to stop any migrant they see walking home and send them to a shelter home. The court asked for details of such functional shelter homes and their location and stated that these shelter homes ought to provide food and water to migrants.

On the plight of the migrants and the efforts made by the state government, the court said, “Everyday hundreds of migrant workers with small children are to be seen at different parts of the State more particularly on the highways. Their condition is pathetic. As on date, they are living in the most inhumane and horrendous conditions. As we have observed earlier, although all the necessary steps are being taken by   the   State   Government, yet   we   are   of   the   view   that   few   more modalities need to be worked out at the earliest to ease the suffering of the people at large.”

Further taking cognizance of the fact that the migrants are scared of starvation, more than COVID19, the court held, “In such   circumstances,   it   becomes   the   paramount   duty   of   the   State Government to assure and repose confidence in the downtrodden class of people that they will be taken care of in the best possible manner. It is hightime for the State Government to deal with this delicate situation very carefully and instill confidence in the minds of the people at large that they will be taken care of.”

While the court said that it does not wish to interfere in the working of the government but it wanted the government’s assurance that the situation will not go from bad to worse and hence directed that concrete plan be submitted to the court.

The court also took cognizance of the issues faced by people with non-COVID related ailments and their inability to access health care and said, “Necessary arrangement should be made in such circumstances to ensure that the ailing person is able to reach to a particular hospital or a clinic and seek immediate medical treatment.”

The May 11 order can be read here.

At the next hearing, May 14, the court gave some suggestions to state authorities for their consideration. The court asked the counsels appearing for the state authorities to ensure that these suggestions reach the respective agencies.

The court asked the state agencies to not let private hospitals charge exorbitant amounts for treatment and asked that their fee structure be brought under the scanner. The court highlighted the need to give permission to more private hospitals to open up as COVID 19 centres and asked the government to regulate their fee structure keeping in mind the crisis. The court directed the State Government to address this issue with the persons concerned to ensure that an affordable level playing field for all private hospitals in Ahmedabad so as to make larger number of beds available for more and more patients. This requires to be done forthwith.”

The court further said that if private hospitals do not comply with such directions of the state government with respect to affordable fee structure, “this Court will have to take   appropriate   legal   action   against   such   hospitals   and   the consequences may be quite bitter including cancellation of licence.”

The Court observed, “This is the time for one and all to work unitedly. Differences should be buried. Once again, we observe that this is not the time to educate the migrant workers, poor and the needy people of the concept of social distancing, etc. They will never be able to understand any such concept. They are not worried about the virus. They are worried about food. It would be very harsh to say that a person should not die because of COVID­19, but no problem if he dies because of hunger.  Therefore, the entire concentration should be to provide the maximum succour and relief to the migrant labourers and the other members of the poor and downtrodden class of society and ease their pain and suffering.”

The court also directed the state agencies to look at a recent Karnataka High Court order with respect to ensuring migrants reach home safely with coordination from trade unions and NGOs. This order can be read here.

The May 14 order can be read here.



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