Mumbai, Jun 5 (PTI) The Maharashtra government on Friday informed the Bombay High Court that it did not have any pending demands for Shramik Special trains from migrant workers and it would arrange for the same if requests are made.
The government submitted its affidavit in response to a petition filed by an NGO Centre of Indian Trade Unions that raised concerns over the plight of migrant workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the petitioner, migrant workers who had submitted applications for leaving Maharashtra in Shramik Special trains or buses were left in dark about the status of their applications.
The plea also stated that till the time they are to board trains or buses to their home states, migrant workers were made to stay in cramped and unhygienic shelters without proper provision of food and essentials.
However, in its affidavit submitted on Friday before a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Amjad Sayed, the government refuted the allegations and said adequate measures were and are being taken to provide food, shelter and medical care to migrant labourers stranded in the state.
The affidavit filed by Kishor Nimbalkar, secretary of disaster management, relief and rehabilitation department, said till June 1, at least 822 trains had departed from Maharashtra carrying around 11,87,150 migrant labourers back to their home states.
'With regard to Shramik Special trains, there remains only one train, which is scheduled to depart for Manipur.
Apart from this, the state government does not have any demand pending from migrant labourers for arranging a Shramik special train,' the affidavit said.
As and when any further demands are received, the state government will inform the railways, it stated.
'Since several other trains have also resumed, migrant labourers and other stranded persons are not solely dependent on Shramik trains to reach their home states,' the government pointed out.
Fares of the Shramik special trains were and are not charged to migrant labourers and all train expenses were borne by the state government through the Chief Minister's Relief Fund, the affidavit said.
'The state government has disbursed Rs 97.69 crore to district collectors for making payment of train fare of migrant labourers and other stranded persons to the Indian Railways,' it said.
According to the affidavit, as on April 10, 5,427 relief camps were set up wherein 6,66,994 migrant labourers were housed during the lockdown.
'Till May 31, the number of migrant labourers housed in these camps have come down to 37,994. The reduction in the number shows that most of the stranded labourers have returned to their native states,' it said.
Social distancing norms and proper sanitation standards were followed at these relief camps and the migrant labourers were provided food and medical care free of cost, the government clarified.
'The state government has disbursed Rs 210 crore from the State Disaster Response Fund to the district collectors across the state to provide food, shelter and medical care for stranded persons, and for purchase of equipment and setting up of labs for the COVID-19 pandemic,' the affidavit said.
It added that the government and civic authorities had also provided food packets and drinking water to people travelling in Shramik trains.
As per the affidavit, migrant labourers found walking on highways and other roads were dropped till their respective state borders or to relief camps in buses arranged by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation.
'Till May 31, as many as 5,30,571 passengers were ferried free of cost by these buses, which made 43,841 trips,' it said.
The affidavit further said that the government was coordinating with other states to ensure that people from Maharashtra who are stranded elsewhere are brought back home by trains or buses.
The court posted the petition for further hearing on June 9. PTI SP ARU ARU