SC Asks Maharashtra To Make More Vigilant And Concerted Efforts In Identifying Migrant Workers.

                    At the outset, it must be mentioned that the Supreme Court has in a latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment titled In Re: Problems And Miseries Of Migrant Labourers in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No(s). 6/2020 in exercise of its civil original jurisdiction delivered on June 9, 2020 by a three Judge Bench of Apex Court comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice MR Shah has asked Maharashtra to be more vigilant and make concerted effort in identifying and sending stranded migrant workers to their native places. The top court did not mince any words to underscore 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 hardships to the migrant workers”. Such “huge lapses” should not have taken place at the first instance!

We all have seen for ourselves in different news channels how migrants workers stranded in different parts of Maharashtra were compelled to suffer untold, unaccounted and unending hardships because of lack of train service there and most alarmingly even fake messages were sent to them to gather in different stations only to find themselves in a quandary with no train going to their respective destinations! This has jolted our entire country and the coalition government of Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has suffered a huge dent in its image as no proper arrangements were made for providing Railways proper list of migrant workers wanting to go by trains as was clarified also by Union Railway Minister – Piyush Goyal! On the contrary, what UP CM Yogi Adityanath has done is being appreciated not just in India but even in countries like Pakistan which usually criticize him apart from the international media! Even the reputed website “Livelaw” has published on this in its “Top Stories” titled “SC Asks Maharashtra To Make More Vigilant And Concerted Efforts In Identifying Stranded Migrant Workers” which in turn inspired me also to write on this!

Without mincing any words, the Apex Court in a scathing indictment of the State of Maharashtra after noting 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 observes explicitly in para 6 that, “We are of the view that the State has to take a more vigilant and concerted 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 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.”

Needless to say, there is no reason why the State of Maharashtra which is the worst affected state by this corona pandemic should not abide by what the top court has held so explicitly! It is the migrant labourers who will gain the most. Instead of decrying the heroic, tireless, selfless and highly commendable efforts of famous actor Sonu Sood who sent many stranded migrants even by plane apart from trains and attributing political motives to him most unfairly as was done by Shiv Sena in its mouthpiece “Samana”, they would be well advised to rather concentrate on doing what the Apex Court has asked them to do in no uncertain terms! Sonu Sood is unfazed by such baseless criticism and has vowed to do his bit to help the stranded migrant workers in every possible manner for which he deserves rich accolades also!

It is really most tragic that when eminent actor Sonu Sood’s herculean efforts are being recognized not just by national media but also by international media, we have some politicians who here also are not able to refrain themselves from attacking him most wrongly! Even the superstar Amitabh Bachhan is highly impressed by Sonu Sood and of late has started to do like him which those criticizing him like Shiv Sena fail to appreciate! Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena even went to the extent of taunting him as “Mahatma” and accused him saying that, “Sonu Sood is a good actor. There is a different director for movies, the work he has done is good but there is a possibility that there is a political director behind it.” Nothing can be more reprehensible than this and nothing can be more further from the truth!

Speaking for myself, I never knew till recently who this Sonu Sood is as a “social worker” apart from being a good actor about which I was aware but after listening regularly in different news channels and reading in different news papers about his stupendous feat in helping so many poor people by booking planes and trains for them, I have become an ardent fan of his! He helped so many helpless woman to go by plane to different states and reach their home safely as was shown in different news channels also! It was also shown that 177 woman who were stuck in Kerala’s Ernakulam were sent to Bhubaneshwar in Odisha in a special plane!  Why Sanjay Raut didn’t accuse these news channels also as being “spokesperson” for Sonu Sood? To do what Sonu Sood has done is easier said than done! This alone explains why even the legendary Amitabh Bachhan has chosen to emulate him!

It must also be brought out here that 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. How can we discard what the top court has said so elegantly and explicitly?

More importantly, the Apex Court noted in the order that, “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 hardships to the migrant workers.”

To be honest, the Apex Court has only highlighted the ground reality. Maharashtra is the worst affected among all States and the maximum cases of corona are also from Maharashtra and maximum death cases are also from here! So the Shiv Sena led coalition government must wake up from the deep slumber that it is in, acknowledge the worst shambles that the migrant workers find themselves in Maharashtra and abide by what the Apex Court has directed them to do! The Apex Court Bench has given 15 days time to transport the remaining migrants who wish to go back to their homes, to return to their native states. This must be complied with accordingly! There can be no ifs and buts! This is what is imperative also!

Sanjeev Sirohi