Issuing Ration Cards on the Basis of 2011 Census Might be Injustice: SC to Union Gov't
On July 21, the Supreme Court heard the application seeking compliance with its judgment regarding problems and miseries of migrant labourers, and directed the Central and State governments to ensure that migrant workers are mandatorily provided ration.
A Bench comprising Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna reportedly said that they would pass orders with appropriate directions, which would include directions regarding provision of dry ration as well as directions to expedite the process of registration of the migrant workers on the e-shram portal, reported LiveLaw.
Additional Solicitor General, Aishwarya Bhati, informed the Court that the registration on the portal through which migrant workers can avail the benefit of certain schemes, is going on. The ASG also informed the Bench that in order to encourage the process of registration, camps are being organised.
The Bench expressed disappointment while taking note of the fact that there were several states that are yet to reach the 50% mark. Justice Shah reportedly remarked, “In a welfare society, in our country, two persons are most important - farmers and migrant labourers. Migrants play an important role in building the he nation. They cannot be ignored at all. If the needy cannot reach the well, the well has to go to the needy and thirsty people. The concerned State Governments have to ensure the benefits reach them. Why don't you go to the places where they are working;...issue circulars to all contractors that unless their names are registered on the portal you would be responsible. Everybody has to try. There are contractors everywhere now.”
Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing on behalf of the petitioners brought to the court’s notice how the exercise to re-determine coverage under the National Food Security Act has not been undertaken and therefore a large number of the workers have not been issued ration cards. He reportedly submitted, “….most migrants do not have ration cards, this current number is based on the 2011 Census and not 2021. But the Central Government says that in 2021 there was a pandemic; we couldn't do a census. The Health Department has a population estimate but they said they can only go with Census data. There lies the heart of the problem.”
Stressing upon the extent of deprivation the reliance on the 2011 census report has caused, he informed the Bench that approximately 75% of the migrant workers in the State of Telangana do not possess ration cards (only 14,000 migrant workers out of 60,980 are with ration cards).
Justice Shah reportedly observed, “Judicial notice can be taken that the population has increased. Going by 2011 might be doing some injustice to the needy person. In true perspective you have to consider that your own people who are needy are getting something. If you determine the quota on the basis of 2011, you might be doing some injustice. You have to see to it also that they have ration cards. We are not on why census has not been done. We have to work out a modality so that more migrants can get the benefit.”
With respect to the State’s duty to provide adequate ration to the citizens, Justice Nagarathna reportedly remarked, “Ultimately in India no citizen should die of hunger. But that is happening. Citizens are dying of hunger. In villages they tie their stomach tightly with cloth; they drink water and sleep. They tie it tightly so that they can kill hunger."
In its order dated July 2021, the Bench had passed directions with respect to workers being provided dry ration whether they possess ration cards or not. They are:
Central Government to undertake exercise under Section 9 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered in Rural and Urban areas of the State under the Public Distribution System of NFSA as the coverage is still based on the 2011 census report.
State Governments to bring in place appropriate schemes for distribution of dry ration to migrant workers without insistence on furnishing of identity proof, and continue such schemes till the time the pandemic continues.
State Governments to run community kitchens at prominent places where large numbers of migrant labourers are found, to provide cooked food and continue this till such time the pandemic continues.
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