The Supreme Court on Thursday, April 20, 2023 directed States and Union Territories to provide ration cards to about eight crore migrant workers registered in the eShram portal but not covered under the National Food Security Act.
The portal has 28.6 crore registrants. Of this, 20.63 crore are registered on ration card data.
“Meaning thereby, the rest of the registrants on eShram portal are still without ration cards… Without a ration card a migrant/unorganised labourer or his family members may be deprived of the benefit of schemes and even benefits under the National Food Security Act,” a Bench led by Justice M.R. Shah noted in its order on a petition filed by activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar.
Advocates Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’Souza, for the petitioners, had argued that there could be more than 10 crore workers left outside the protective umbrella of the Food Safety Act as the statistics were based on the 2011 census. The population would have increased since then.
The court said it was the duty of a welfare state to include each and every migrant worker on the ration card roll expeditiously.
It gave authorities three months to implement its order. It has sought a status report from the Centre by October 3, the next date of hearing.
“We give three months’ time to the States and Union Territories to undertake the exercise to issue ration cards to the left out registrants on eShram portal by giving wide publicity,” the court ordered.
The Bench said the States and Union Territories could reach out to the workers through District Collectors “so that more and more registrants on eShram portal are issued the ration cards and they get the benefit of the benevolent schemes floated by the Union government and the State governments, including the benefit under the National Food Security Act”.