The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Maharashtra to be more vigilant and make concerted effort in identifying and sending stranded migrant workers to their native places.
The Court also observed that there were "huge lapses" by the Maharashtra authorities in dealing with the issue and that "most of the claims are only on paper causing great miseries and hardship to the migrant workers"
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M R Shah noted the state government's submission that it has 37,000 migrant workers waiting to return to their native places and it has requested only one train from the railways for sending them back.
The Court observed :
"We are of the view that State has to make a more vigilant and concentrated effort in identifying the migrant workers, who are still stranded in State of Maharashtra and who are willing to return to their native places"
The bench further observed :
"The Government should publicise and announce the places i.e police stations or any other suitable place for identifying/registering the workers, who have not yet been provided any train or bus journey. The State Supervisory Committee, District Supervisory Committee and its officials should ensure that all migrant labourers, who are willing to go to their native place, should be identified, provide them food and shelter and no complaint is received of not providing facility of journey or food by the stranded migrant labourers".
The top court said that although in the affidavit, the State claims that it is providing food and shelter to migrant workers and list of entire workers is prepared, such claim has been refuted in different affidavits and materials brought on the record by different parties including intervenors and various individuals.
The Court stated in the order :
"We may notice, at this stage, that although in the affidavit, the State claims that it is providing food and shelter to migrant workers and list of entire workers is prepared, such claim has been refuted in different affidavits and materials brought on the record by intervenors and various individuals. It is submitted that there is no proper arrangement of food to the migrant labourers nor there is any simple manner of registration of the workers. There are huge lapses on the part of the State authorities in implementing State policies and decisions and most of the claims are only on paper causing great miseries and hardship to the migrant workers".
The Court made these observations in the suo moto case taken on the miseries of migrant labourers. The bench gave 15 days time to the States and UTs to transport the remaining migrants, who wish to go back to their homes, to return to their native states.
The Court noted that the Maharashtra, NCT of Delhi and Gujarat are the States from where substantial number of migrant workers were sent to their native places.
Maharashtra government told the top court that over 12 lakh migrant labourers have been sent to their native places and out of them more than five lakhs passengers have been ferried free of cost by buses of state road transport corporation. About 37,000 migrants are still waiting to return, Maharashtra government added.
The Court also noted the submission of Delhi government that about three lakhs migrant workers have been sent to their native places by 236 trains and about 12,000 have been sent by buses.
The Delhi Government said that about 6.5 lakh persons have already registered themselves at the web portal of the Government of NCT of Delhi and about two lakh migrants have chosen to not to go to their native places in the wake of the re-opening of industries.
Gujarat told the top court that out of 23 lakh migrant workers working in the State more than 14 lakh have been sent to their native places by 999 Shramik trains' and more than 5.75 lakh have been sent to their native States by buses.
The Uttar Pradesh government informed the court that around 25 lakh migrant workers have safely returned to their native places and government is providing them free of cost last mile connectivity to their villages.
Bihar had told the top court that 28 lakh migrant workers have reached the State and the government is in the process of setting up counselling centres, which would examine the skill level of the labourers and suggest the options of employment available in the State.
Similar submissions made by Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, West Bengal, Kerala and other States and Union Territories on sending and receiving of migrant workers and welfare initiatives taken by the State government to rehabilitate them were noted by the top court in its order.
On May 28, the top court had directed that the migrant workers wanting to return to their home states will not be charged train or bus fares and those stranded across the country will be provided food free of cost by the authorities concerned.
Click here to download Order