Food should reach all migrant workers, Supreme Court tells Centre, States

Adv. Prashant Bhushan said data on how many workers own a ration card need to be collected from e-shram portal, and cardless workers should be provided rations through National Food Security Act

Updated - July 21, 2022 11:51 pm IST

Published - July 21, 2022 09:53 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Telangana’s affidavit shows that over 75% of migrant workers in the State do not possess ration cards. File

Telangana’s affidavit shows that over 75% of migrant workers in the State do not possess ration cards. File | Photo Credit: Giri KVS

The Supreme Court on Thursday told the Centre and States that no citizen should die of hunger and food should reach the homes of every migrant worker.

"Migrant workers play a vital role in building up of this country and the only solace they want is that you (government) take care of them and their families. If you don't take care of migrant workers, who will?" Justice M.R. Shah asked the Centre and the States.

This case was originally taken up suo motu by the apex court during the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns in light of distress and problems being faced by migrant workers.

The court, for instance, noticed how Maharashtra has covered only 36% migrant workers in the State.

"Pass percentage in exams is 35%, you have scored only 1% more...Government should spare some time on this also," the Bench addressed Maharashtra counsel.

"We can only push the cart, you have to drive the cart," Justice Shah said.

Justice B.V. Nagarathna, meanwhile, reminded the States that right to food was a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.

"No citizen should die of hunger," Justice Nagarathna observed.

Justice Nagarathna remarked how the poor and marginalised in India are still having to tie a cloth tightly around their stomach to ward off hunger pangs.

Ration cards

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioners Anjali Bhardwaj and others, said extensive data need to culled out from the e-shram portal, where 27.95 crore workers have registered, to see how many own a ration card. Those without cards should be provided rations either through the National Food Security Act or through some other scheme.

Mr. Bhushan said Telangana's affidavit shows that over 75% of migrant workers in the State do not possess ration cards.

The apex court had in June last year, and especially during the pandemic, passed comprehensive directions to ensure food security to the poor, including through community kitchens and distribution of dry rations without insistence on identity proof.

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