The Hon’ble Bench comprising Hon’ble Justice Ashok Bhushan and Hon’ble M.R. Shah in a suo moto case which is undertaken by the Hon’ble supreme court by taking cognizance of the problems and miseries of the migrant laborers in May 2020 was listed again in May 2021 after the second wave of the covid-19 pandemic has given following directions for the welfare of the migrant workers:
- It is directed that the Central Government develop the Portal in consultation with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) for registration of the unorganized laborers/migrant workers. We also impress upon and direct that the Central Government as well as the respective States and the Union Territories to complete the process of Portal for registration under National Data Base for Unorganised Workers (NDUW Project) as well as implement the same, which by all means may commence not later than 31.07.2021. We also impress upon and direct that the process of registration of the unorganized laborers/migrant workers is completed at the earliest, but no later than 31.12.2021. All the concerned States/Union Territories and the Licence Holders/Contractors and others to cooperate with the Central Government to complete the process of registration of migrant workers and unorganized laborers so that the benefits of the welfare schemes declared by the Central Government/State Governments/ Union Territories be available to migrant workers and unorganized laborers for whose benefits the welfare schemes are declared
- The Central Government has undertaken to distribute an additional quantity of food grains as demanded by the States/Union Territories for distribution to migrant labourers under some Scheme framed by the States, we direct the Central Government, Department of Food and Public Distribution (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution) to allocate and distribute food grains as per the demand of additional food-grains from the States for disbursement of dry food grains to migrant labourers.
- We direct the States to bring in place an appropriate scheme for distribution of dry ration to migrant labourers for which it shall be open for States to ask for allocation of additional food grains from the Central Government, which, as directed above, shall provide the additional food grains to the State. The State shall consider and bring an appropriate Scheme, which may be implemented on or before 31.07.2021. Such a scheme may be continued and operated till the current pandemic (Covid-19) continues.
- The States, who have not yet implemented the “One Nation One Ration Card” scheme is directed to implement the same by not later than 31.07.2021.
- The Central Government may undertake an exercise under Section 9 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered under the Rural and Urban areas of the State.
- We direct all the States/Union Territories to register all establishments and license all contractors under the Act, 1979 and ensure that statutory duty imposed on the contractors to give particulars of migrant workers is fully complied with.
- The State/Union Territories are directed to run community kitchens at prominent places where a large number of migrant labourers are found for feeding those migrant labourers who do not have sufficient means to procure two meals a day. The running of the community kitchen should be continued at least till the pandemic (Covid-19) continues.
In the instant case, Hon’ble court took into consideration submissions made by the learned counsel appearing for applicants/intervenors who have raised concerns regarding non-supply of dry ration to a large section of migrant workers, who are not covered under the National Food Security Act, 2013 and who do not possess ration card.
The Hon’ble Court observed that “Those who have been identified as a beneficiary under National Food Security Act, 2013 are provided dry rations as per the Centre and States’ Schemes. In the event, migrant labour is covered under the National Food Security Act, 2013 and had been issued a ration card under the Act, he is entitled to access the dry ration wherever he is, at his workplace also, under the scheme of the Central Government namely “One Nation One Ration Card”.
Further, the hon’ble court expressed the concern that ” Both the Central Government and the State Governments have floated various schemes for unorganized workers, building and construction workers but a sad picture of the ground reality is that a large number of beneficiaries are deprived of access to these welfare schemes of the Central Government or the State Governments”