The Supreme Court on Wednesday expressed shock that welfare schemes were not effectively implemented even after spending thousands of crore and asked the government why were these schemes even being formulated. “Why don’t you just scrap the scheme,” a bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta told Additional Solicitor General Atmaram Nadkarni, representing the Centre, during a hearing on the issue of urban homeless.
“You (Centre) are spending thousands of crore which the Union of India can utilise on other important purposes,” the bench said, adding “it is a wastage of tax payers’ money. It is shocking.”
It castigated the Centre and state governments for their apathy towards the urban homeless people and asked them to show “some compassion” towards them.
The top court slammed the states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and West Bengal for not giving complete details of expenditure of funds allocated to them by the Centre under the scheme for urban homeless.
Terming it as a “very dismal and very distressing state of affairs”, the bench observed that the states should be sensitive towards the homeless as it appeared that they were not concerned about the hardships these poor people faced.
“We are trying to help some needy people. At least have some compassion for these people, a little bit of compassion,” it said and told the Centre, “you come out with good schemes but if you cannot implement them, then why these schemes have been made.”
The apex court said the Centre cannot say that they have given funds to the states and their job was over and the states would not bother whether “this money is going into drain or how it is being spent.”
Taking strong objection to the details given by Haryana government in its affidavit, the bench said various issues were not explained and asked the Chief Secretary of the state to appear before it.
Regarding Uttar Pradesh, the bench observed that as per a report filed by the court-appointed committee, there were around 1.8 lakh urban homeless while the capacity at the shelter homes there was only around 6,000.
However, the counsel representing Uttar Pradesh told the court that they would file a comprehensive affidavit giving details of the funds received from the Centre and the expenditure incurred by it under the urban homeless scheme.
When advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing a petitioner, said that Uttar Pradesh government was “more concerned about cow shelters rather than shelter for the homeless”, the state’s counsel shot back saying “do not bring politics here”.
Similarly, the bench asked the counsel for West Bengal government to furnish all details about the funds and expenditure by the state and the amount spent on the construction of shelter homes.
“Please talk to your officers. Have a heart for these people. How can it be that people are not concerned about these homeless. These homeless people have been reduced to numbers only,” the bench observed.
It also said that amount allocated by the Centre under the scheme should directly go for the benefit of the urban homeless people.
The bench asked the additional solicitor general to assist it in having a better mechanism to deal with the issue. The court said it could consider having committees at state level to monitor the situation related to the homeless.
The court posted the matter for hearing after two weeks.
The apex court had earlier expressed concern over non-utilisation of funds for providing shelters to the urban homeless and non-constitution of committees for the purpose in the urban local bodies of some states.
The court is first dealing with status of three states –Haryana, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh — among 11 and two Union Territories which have been highlighted by the apex court-appointed committee headed by former Delhi High Court judge Justice Kailash Gambhir to oversee the implementation of the NULM across the country.
The Centre had earlier informed the court that the unspent amount by states for the previous period stood at Rs 412 crore, while Rs 228 crore was released by it for 2017-18.
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