The Maharashtra government on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that it has incurred a loss of over Rs 42 lakh as most of the special Shramik trains, which were run to ferry migrant workers to their home towns amid the Covid-19 pandemic, went empty from the state. The HC was further told that there has been no fresh demand by migrant workers to go back to their native places.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Ajay Gadkari was also informed that "reverse migration" has begun as thousands of workers or labourers have started to return to Mumbai for their work.
The bench was seized with a PIL filed by Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), seeking directives to the Maharashtra government to run fresh Shramik trains so as to enable stranded workers to move back to their hometowns. The plea claimed that there are still thousands of workers, who are stuck here in Maharashtra and want to go back to their homes.
"We won't pass an order directly. Let us first know the exact number of workers, who want to go back home and the status of their receiving state," CJ Datta said, adding, "We say so, because there are many a states which still have restrictions on letting people in their boundaries. This is just to ensure that they (workers) don't face anything more."
Meanwhile, Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni informed the bench that there was no need for fresh trains. "We have already spent over Rs 69 lakhs in arranging such special trains. But it must be noted that the state exchequer has incurred losses up to Rs 42 lakh as most of these trains have went empty," AG Kumbhakoni said.
"There are no fresh demands from any worker. In fact, reverse immigration has begun with at least thousands of workers migrating back to Mumbai for the work," the AG pointed out.
The advocate general further apprised the bench of a specific instance, wherein over 800 CITU workers from Pune had requested to go back to their hometowns. "We had arranged for nearly seven buses. But only two buses left Pune with a mere 49 odd workers," he submitted.
AG Kumbhakoni, accordingly insisted the bench to order CITU to deposit the amount that would be payable for these "fresh trains" as the union demanded.
However, the bench refused to issue such a directive and adjourned the matter for two weeks.
The state said instead now there has been a reverse migration with workers coming back to Mumbai. Meanwhile, the HC has asked the state to specify the total number of migrant workers, who wish to leave Maharashtra. The HC also noted that some states in the nation aren't allowing workers to enter their boundaries due to restrictions imposed during lockdown.