Court monitored ration provisioning for migrant workers: Plea in Supreme Court

  • Shruti Kakkar
  • 08:24 PM, 16 Jun 2021

Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj and Jagdeep S Chookar have approached the Supreme Court by way of an application filed through Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan in the suo moto matter related to problems and miseries of migrant labourers set up a court monitored mechanism to ensure strict compliance of the directions in the Court’s order dated May 24, 2021 for providing dry ration to migrant workers.

The plea presented by the applicants has been divided into four parts Dry Rations To Migrant Workers, One Nation One Ration (ONOR), Provision Of Emergency Cash Transfers To Migrant Workers And Provision Of Cooked Food To Migrant Workers.

With regards to dry ration to migrant workers, the applicants have also sought for identifying migrant workers under Atma Nirbhar Bharat Yojana and providing them rations in addition to providing opportunity to new or unregistered migrants to avail dry grains. They have also sought for directing the Union of India to put in place a specific scheme for providing dry rations free of cost to migrant workers and to not restrict the provisions to a one or two month entitlement and continue for at least the next 6 months.

The applicants have placed reliance on “Inter State Migration” enumerated at Entry 81 in List 1 which falls within the ambit of Union List to argue that, “Currently foodgrain stockwith the Food Corporation of India is at a record high of more than 100 million metric tonnes and therefore, there is no reason for the Central government to not make available this grain for a specific scheme to alleviate the distress and hunger among those in need including migrant workers.

On the aspect of One Nation One Ration, the applicants while highlighting the key issues related to the scheme that are hindering the access of migrant workers from availing its benefits have sought for directing the Union of India to revise the state-wise quota of ration cards under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) as per 2021 population projections. 

The applicants have also sought for directing the states and Union of India to give priority to including migrant workers under NFSA by easing norms for obtaining a ration card through provision of self-declaration in case of people without necessary documents as also directed by this Hon’ble Court in this case for provision of dry ration on basis of self certification and to ensure no person is denied access to food on account of biometric failure or technological failure in e-POS machines by putting in place uniform, reliable and easy to access alternatives in case of such failures.

On the issue of provision of emergency cash transfers to migrant workers the application states that, “A perusal of the affidavits filed by states show that most have made provision to give cash transfers to construction workers who are registered with the state’s construction workers board, welfare board or social security board in order to help them cope with the loss of livelihood. However, migrant workers are not just restricted to the construction sector. They also work in factories, as domestic help, casual labour, street vendors, rickshaw pullers, auto drivers etc.

Thus the applicants have sought for directing the Central and the State governments to jointly/severally ensure emergency cash transfers to all migrant workers identified under any scheme/law including, but not limited to,those identified under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Yojna of 2020, under Street Vendors Act, Inter State Migrant Workmen Act for the period that economic activity is adversely impacted by the pandemic to compensate for the loss of livelihood and income. 

In addition to this they have further sought for setting up of a mechanism to monitor compliance of the Top Court’s direction with respect to registration of unorganised sector workers and migrant workers under the various laws and databases.

On the fourth issue pertaining to provision of cooked food to migrant workers, the application seeks for directing the states to strictly comply Top Court’s order of making operational easily accessible community kitchens for providing cooked food for migrant workers for next 6 months and further directing them to open community kitchens in every block in rural areas and in every ward in urban areas to provide cooked food to migrant workers. 

Recently, the Court had observed that all the States must implement the, “One Nation One Ration Card”scheme which allowed the migrant labourers to get ration benefits from all the parts of the country irrespective of their place of ration card registration.