Plea in Supreme Court Seeks Minimum Wages, Food Security, Transportation Facility And Resuming Of Schemes For Migrant Labourers

  • Sakshi Shukla
  • 07:15 PM, 30 Apr 2021

An application has been moved in the Supreme Court on account of distress faced by Migrant Labourers due to fresh restrictions, curfews and lockdowns in various States.

Activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chokkar have pursued the present application through Advocate Prashant Bhushan, on primarily two grounds concerning Migrant Labourers;

(1) Loss of livelihood and means of income on account of restrictions and lockdowns resulting in people being unable to pay for basic needs like food, rent, etc.

(2) Lack of proper arrangement for safe and free travel back to their hometowns when lockdowns are announced.

To highlight the prevailing situation, reliance is placed on a News Report by The Hindustan Times, dated April 20th, which stated the following with respect to the recent lockdown imposed in Delhi,

“…the distressed workers waiting for hours at the bus stops claimed that the Chief Minister should have given more time before announcing the lockdown because, in the face of this crisis, the trip back home is now costing 10 times more.”

As per ANI report (in his conversation with one of the Migrants heading back home);

“… We are daily wagers, the CM should have given us some time before announcing the lockdown…It takes us Rs 200 to reach home, but they are charging Rs 3000, 4000 now, how will we go home?”

The applicant have submitted that there is an urgent need to avert the impending hunger and starvation crisis amongst the families of Migrant workers.

“Migrant workers are mostly excluded from the PDS under the National Food Security Act or similar State run program due to lack of appropriate documents to prove domicile, address proof and other mandatory requirements. Last year during the national lockdown, the central government had implemented some schemes to provide relief to migrant workers and other distressed persons such as the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Package. However, the scheme for providing ration to migrant workers was discontinued in 2020 and till date, no specific schemes for food security and social security for returning or stranded migrant workers have been announced despite the visible and documented distress among migrant workers”, the applicant states.

It is further added that under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme announced by the Government last year, 8 crore migrant workers were to be provided 5 kg food grains, per person and 1 kg pulses, per family, free of cost. It was to cover migrant labourers, stranded persons not falling under NFSA or State schemes.

However, the scheme continued only for a period of 2 months; May and June, 2020.

With respect to PMGKAY, the applicant states, “Initially, the scheme was for a period of 3 months, which was subsequently extended till November, 2020. Thereafter, the scheme was discontinued. In light of the economic distress, the scheme has been restarted in 2021 for the months of May and June 2021, although the limited entitlements have been further reduced by denying pulses and therefore, this time only additional food grains at 5 kg per person per month will be provided to 80 Crore beneficiaries covered under National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA). The benefits are limited to only those people who possess ration cards.”

With respect to Cash Transfers to Migrant Labourers, the Applicant seeks to provide financial assistance in the form of Direct Benefit Transfers equivalent to the notified minimum wage of different states, to help Migrant workers to cope with this crisis and pay for their basic needs including rent, electricity, water etc.

Prayer has been sought for the following;

  1. Union of India to resume schemes providing dry rations under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme to provide for all 8 crore migrant labourers who are not covered under the National Food Security Act or State distribution schemes.
  2. Central Government and State Governments to provide free cooked food through networks of community kitchens and feeding centres, mainly at places where migrant workers are residing collectively, so that no one is deprived of food.
  3. Central Government and State Government to jointly and individually ensure cash transfers to the notified minimum wage.
  4. Union Government to furnish details of social and food security schemes put in place.
  5. Union and State Governments to ensure Travel facility to Migrant workers, returning back to their hometowns
  6. Union and State Governments to display accessible information related to social and food security concerning Migrant labourers.