PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking invocation of the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF) towards repatriation of economically weaker Indians, including migrant workers stranded from Gulf countries.
The petition, initiated by Pravasi Legal Cell and filed by Advocate Jose Abraham, has sought assistance from the ICWF in light of the recent Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs) dated May 5, 2020 by the Government to repatriate Indian citizens basis a fixed fare.
The plea thereby avers that since a “vast majority of Indian Expatriates in the Gulf countries are involved in low-skilled labour, who are going through challenging times”, fixing a fare would further burden the migrant labourers “who are already out of jobs”
In light of this, the petitioner contends that the Government must use this Fund which was set up in 2009, originally aimed at assisting overseas Indian nationals in times of distress and emergency for critical support in emergency evacuation of Indian nationals from conflict zones, countries affected by natural disasters and other challenging situations “for repatriation of economically weaker migrant labourers stranded abroad”.
“In the present situation in hand, considering the large no. of Indians stranded in various countries across the world, the Government had decided to charge for such repatriation, however, the Government must also consider the situation of migrant workers who have already lost their jobs and are living in miserable condition in the Gulf countries….” – Petition contends.
The petitioner also goes to on to reiterate that the fundamental right enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution is to be interpreted expansively as laid down in Francis Coralie Mullin v Union Territory of Delhi (1981) 1 SCC 6O8.
Additionally, the petition lays down the Constitutional obligation on the Government to protect the interests of all Citizens in this “extraordinary time”.