Give ration, 2 free meals/day to migrant workers, SC tells Centre, Delhi, UP and Haryana

By: |
May 14, 2021 1:45 AM

The Thursday’s order came on an application by activists led by Harsh Mander, seeking urgent directions to ensure that migrant workers are not deprived of ration and food security and are able to travel back to their homes at nominal cost.

The judges directed the Centre as well as the three state governments to file replies suggesting measures being taken by them to ameliorate miseries of stranded migrant labourers.The judges directed the Centre as well as the three state governments to file replies suggesting measures being taken by them to ameliorate miseries of stranded migrant labourers.

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre and Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments to provide dry ration and two meals a day to migrant workers hit by lockdown, and facilititate their transport in the National Capital Region.

A Bench comprising justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah asked the Centre and the two states and the Union Territory to provide dry ration to migrant workers in NCR under its Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme or any other scheme utilising the Public Distribution System prevalent in each state with effect from May 2021. While providing dry ration, the state authorities should not insist on an identity card for those who do not have it. And dry ration can be given on self-declaration made by the stranded migrant labourer.

“The NCT of Delhi, UP and Haryana (for the districts included in the NCR) have been directed to open community kitchen at well-advertised places in the NCR for stranded migrant labourers so that they and their family members who are stranded could get two meals a day,” the Bench said.
“How will migrants survive with no money or work? Some sustenance must be provided for the time being… You have to consider the harsh realities,” the Bench told solicitor general Tushar Mehta during the hearing.

Coming down heavily on the government on reports that migrant workers were being fleeced by private carriers when they wanted to go back to their homes, the apex court said the NCT of Delhi, UP and Haryana shall ensure that adequate transport is provided to stranded migrant labourers in the NCR who want to return home, it said, adding that district administration in coordination with police may identify such stranded migrant labourers and facilitate their transport either by road transport or train.

The central government was also asked to consider issuing necessary instructions to ministry of railways to take necessary and adequate measures to cater the need of migrant labourers.

It also asked the three state governments to give details of the steps they had taken to help migrant workers who had to suffer as the pandemic slowed down industrial activities causing loss of earnings to them.

The judges directed the Centre as well as the three state governments to file replies suggesting measures being taken by them to ameliorate miseries of stranded migrant labourers. Even response was sought from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Bihar asking them to give the details of the measures which they propose to take to end miseries of migrant workers.

The Thursday’s order came on an application by activists led by Harsh Mander, seeking urgent directions to ensure that migrant workers are not deprived of ration and food security and are able to travel back to their homes at nominal cost.

Even last year in May, the SC had initiated suo motu cognizance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers during the national lockdown and had passed a slew of directions to the Centre and state governments to ensure that there are no delays in arranging transportation for migrants wanting to leave for their native states. It had also directed the governments to provide employment at migrants’ native home according to their skillset.
Counsel Prashant Bhushan contended that a large number of migrant workers are facing distress due to the pandemic, as they have lost jobs and have no money to look after their families. He also pointed out that migrant workers were being charged exorbitantly by private bus operators for travelling to their native places.

Mehta submitted that the country was fighting the worst form of the pandemic and the state governments were trying hard to ensure that industrial and construction activities were not halted. “This year, the effort of every state is to ensure that it is not a lockdown in a sense which we have seen last time,” he said.

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