The Maharashtra government today found itself on the receiving end of sharp criticism from the Supreme Court over its handling of the migrant labourers, thousands of whom are still in the state. Despite the state's claims of provision of food and shelter to migrants, there are "submissions" that there are no proper arrangements for it, or any simple procedure for workers to register themselves so they can go home, the court said.
Maharashtra government's data show around 5 lakh people were sent free of cost by buses and 37,000 migrants are still waiting to go back home.
"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," said Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MR Shah, who also ordered the states to send all migrants home within 15 days.
Maharashtra is one of the states that had been at loggerheads with the Centre over the transfer of migrants. While the state complained that the Centre failed to provide adequate trains, the railway ministry headed by Union Minister Piyush Goyal contended that the state was unable to provide it with lists of passengers and their destinations.
One of the key obstacles was the process of registration, which allegedly was not user-friendly.
The court today said Maharashtra must make a more vigilant and concentrated effort in identifying stranded migrant workers. It must publicise the places where migrant workers can identify and register themselves for the trip home.
The state officials must also ensure that there is no complaint that the migrant workers have not received food and shelter or help for their journey.
"The Government should publicise and announce the places -- that is police stations or any other suitable place for identifying and registering the workers, who have not yet been provided any train or bus journey," the three-judge bench said.
The court, which had taken up the migrants issue suo motu, said although in the affidavit, "the state claims 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".