The Maharashtra government on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that it incurred a loss of around Rs 42 lakh as most of the Shramik Special trains arranged in the last month to ferry stranded migrant workers to their native states amid the COVID-19 pandemic went empty.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the state government, told a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice A S Gadkari that lakhs of migrant workers are now, in fact, coming back to Maharashtra from their native states.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by a city-based trade union body, Centre of Indian Trade Unions, raising concerns over the plight of migrant workers stranded in Maharashtra amid the pandemic.
Kumbhakoni said in the last month, the state government arranged for trains to ferry thousands of migrant workers but only 3,551 people boarded the trains.
"The state government incurred a loss of around Rs 42 lakh, he said.
He further told the court that a train was arranged from Pune to ferry 383 people to their native state, but on the day of the departure, only 49 people boarded the 24-coach train.
"Lakhs of migrant workers who left the state at the beginning of the pandemic are now returning to Maharashtra, Kumbhakoni said.
The petitioners advocate, Ronita Bhattacharya, on Wednesday told the court that there are still several migrant workers waiting to go back to their native states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
The bench said the petitioner needs to ascertain the number of migrant workers who wish to go back to their native states.
"Another thing that needs to be considered is whether the receiving states are inclined to permit these migrant workers back, Chief Justice Datta said.
The bench directed Kumbhakoni to file an affidavit giving details of the number of trains run, how many migrants boarded the trains and the expenditure incurred by the government.
The court posted the plea for further hearing after two weeks.