Activists welcome Supreme Court ruling on migrant workers

Migrant workers seen outside the Kashmiri Gate Metro station waiting for transport to their workplace.  

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday should result in the universalisation of rations to all migrant workers across India as long as the pandemic continues, as opposed to the government’s one-time relief measures, said intervenors in the petition.

Social activists Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj and Jagdeep Chhokar also welcomed the Supreme Court’s direction to the government to re-determine the number of people covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), given that the population has grown since the law was enacted.

“It is significant that the SC has recognised that economic distress does not go away merely with the lifting of lockdowns...,” said the intervenors in a statement. “We welcome this important judgment and are happy to note that the plea to universalise rations to all migrant workers across India till the pandemic continues has been accepted.”

In its ruling, the SC had directed States to distribute dry ration and run community kitchens for migrant workers, and directed the Centre to provide the needed grains to implement this. The Food Ministry has so far argued that there is no need to revive the Atma Nirbhar scheme under which it had provided such dry rations for 2.8 crore migrants and others without ration cards last year

In their written submission to the court on June 15, the intervenors had highlighted that the benefits of NFSA as well as the One Nation One Ration Card scheme were restricted to those with ration cards. They pointed out that several States had already exhausted their ration card quota under NFSA, and 22 out of 29 States had less than 5% quota remaining.

“These State-wise quotas under the Act are severely underestimated on account of being calculated as per the figures of the 2011 census and never having been updated since,” said the intervenors. They argued for a revision of the quotas using the current population projection of 139 crore, which would increase NFSA coverage to 93 crore people, as against the current figure of 80 crore.

In its ruling, the SC has now directed the Centre “to undertake exercise under Section 9 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered under Rural and Urban areas of the State, which shall be beneficial to a large number of persons.”

The intervenors had also argued for emergency cash transfers to be given to migrant workers to pay for cooking oil, milk and vegetables, as well as non-food expenses such as medical and rent needs. However, the court said it could not issue any direction on cash transfers as they were a matter of policy and in the domain of the State.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 9:17:26 AM |

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