In SC, Centre elaborates on food for migrants without ration cards

Migrant labourers from Odisha travel all the way from Shamshabad to Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station to return to their native State, in Hyderabad on June 12, 2021.   | Photo Credit: G. Ramakrishna

The Central government on Monday informed Supreme Court that the States and the Union Territories (UTs) have purchased nearly 3.7 lakh metric tonnes at concessional rates from the Food Corporation of India this year to feed migrants without ration cards and others outside the protective cover of the National Food Security Act, debunking apprehensions raised in court that those without ration cards may be left to die amidst a devastating pandemic.

The Supreme Court had asked the Centre to explain “how food will reach migrant labourers without ration cards”.

The Centre has placed on record details of its schemes to feed the migrant poor badly affected in the public health crisis.

Besides the purchase of grains by the States and the UTs under the Open Market Sales Scheme (OMSS) in 2021-2022, the Centre stated, NGOs and charitable organisations had purchased 421 metric tonnes of food commodities.

“NGOs run kitchens for supply of cooked food to non-card migrants,” the Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, said in written submissions in court.

However, the responsibility to distribute food grains lay with the States, it noted. “Union of India is committed to making sufficient food grains available to the States at highly subsidised prices under the above schemes, to tide over the difficulty of food security during the current crisis, however, the responsibility of identification and distribution to the beneficiaries lies with the States/UTs,” it submitted.

Advice to States, UTs

The Centre said it had written twice to the States/UTs- on May 20 and May 25, advising them to “avail their requirements of food grains under the schemes and to provide food grains to those not covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), including migrants/stranded migrants, as per locally assessed requirements”.

The government informed the court about the Prime Minister’s announcement on June 7 to further extend the distribution of free grains under the third phase of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY-III) to beneficiaries till November 2021. The scheme covers 80 crore beneficiaries. Earlier, on April 26, the scheme had been extended for two months, May and June. The food provided under the scheme supplemented the normal public distribution scheme allocation of grains as per the NFSA.

The Centre said it liberalised the OMSS in 2021, considering the “resurgence” of the pandemic. This was done with the “objective to make wheat and rice stocks easily available in open market”.

“Under the policy, rates have been made attractive and uniform rate fixed pan India during Covid period,” it submitted.

Besides, among other measures, the Centre noted, it had extended the scheme for food grains for “beneficiaries not covered under NFSA and to whom ration cards have been issued by the State Governments under their own scheme @ 5 kg per person per month”.

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Printable version | Jul 26, 2021 1:52:43 AM |

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