The Supreme Court has directed states to provide dry ration to all migrant workers, even those without ration cards, and to set up community kitchens for stranded workers. The bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah continues to hear the suo moto In Re: Problems and miseries of Migrant Labourers of 2020 and has sought information from the Centre on the National Database of unorganised-sector worker, and has pushed for cooperation with the states to complete the registration process so that benefits can percolate to all workers.
The bench had passed similar directions with respect to providing dry rations and setting up community kitchens for migrant workers, on May 13. In its May 13 order the court had directed states to file their responses, which the states did before the May 24 hearing.
Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan submitted that although directions were issued by the Court for disbursement of dry ration to the stranded migrant workers, the same has not yet started. Further, none of the states have started Atma Nirbhar Scheme for those migrant workers, who have no ration cards, even for disbursing cooked food, not enough centres have been put in place. He further submitted that unorganised-sector workers are not being registered although more than a year has passed since starting the process. He also pointed out that cash transfer benefits were not extended in several states.
In the affidavit submitted by the Centre, that the situation of exodus of migrant workers was handled by the Delhi, Haryana and UP governments and that as on date there is no problem regarding transportation of stranded migrant workers. The Centre also submitted that most industries are functioning and no large scale loss of employment of workers has taken place this year.
States of Bihar, Gujarat, UP and some others stated that they have maintained records of migrant workers as per the court’s orders of 2020. Gujarat informed the court that Union Ministry of Labour and Employment has started the process for developing a comprehensive National Database for the Unorganised Workers (NDUW) including migrant and construction workers.
The court observed that while states have undertaken registration under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, there are no details on whether the registration has been completed. However, the Act has been repealed by the Code of Social Security Act, 2020. Thus, the court has sought details from the Centre on the same as section 112 of the Code contemplates registration of unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers.
The court took the view that registration of unorganised workers should be completed as early as possible and there should be Common National Database for all organised workers situated in different states in the entire country. The court further stated that the NDUW should be completed with collaboration and coordination of the states.
The court has sought a detailed affidavit from the Centre with regards to registration of unorganised workers in the light of some of the labour laws being repealed. “We are further of the view that there shall be suitable mechanism to monitor and supervise whether the benefits of the welfare schemes reach the beneficiaries which may be from grassroot levels to higher authorities with names & places of beneficiaries so that the purposes for such schemes are floated is achieved,” the court ordered.
The court further sought an affidavit from states indicating the mechanism by which the dry ration should be distributed to those migrant workers, who do not possess a ration card and directed that migrant workers wherever stranded throughout the country should be provided the dry ration under either the Atma Nirbhar Scheme or any other scheme suitable. The court also directed states to make operational community kitchens for migrant workers to enable them to have 2 meals a day and ordered that there should be wide publicity on schemes of community kitchens and other welfare schemes for migrants.
With regards to direct cash transfer, the court stated that it was a matter of policy and the same should be carried out in accordance with schemes of each state and thus ordered states to specify details of such schemes in their next affidavit.
The matter will next be heard on either June 11 or June 14.
The order may be read here:
Courtesy: Sabrang India