NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed states and Union Territories to implement the ‘one nation, one ration card’ scheme by July 31, while asking the Centre to provide dry ration for free distribution among migrant workers till the COVID-19 situation continues.
A bench of justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah issued a slew of directions on a plea of three activists seeking directions to the Centre and states to ensure food security, cash transfers and other welfare measures for migrant workers who faced distress again due to curfews and lockdowns in various parts of country during the second wave of COVID-19.
The bench has said ONORC scheme is for welfare of poor citizens as it allows migrant workers to get ration at the place of their work in other states as well where their ration cards are not registered.
The bench directed the Centre to develop a portal with the help of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) for registration of unorganised sector workers for granting them the benefits of welfare schemes by July 31.
It also directed the states, UTs to run community kitchens for migrant workers till the COVID pandemic continues.
It asked the Centre to keep allocating foodgrains to the states, UTs for distribution among migrant workers for free till the pandemic situation exists.
The state governments and the UT administrations shall bring a scheme to provide dry ration to migrant workers by July 31 and such a scheme will remain till COVID situation continues, the top court said.
The bench directed states and UTs to register all establishments and contractors under the Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service Act) 1979.
Activists Anjali Bharadwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar had filed a plea seeking implementation of welfare measures for migrant workers and the judgement was reserved on June 11 by the bench.
The fresh plea was filed in a pending suo motu case of 2020 in which the top court in May last year had taken cognizance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers and had passed a slew of directions including asking the states not to charge fare from migrant workers and provide them food free of cost till they board trains or buses.
The Centre had said that while most states were implementing the ONORC, four of them, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and West Bengal have not yet integrated into the scheme and it would depend on their technical readiness to implement the portability of ration cards.
The Centre also said that the AAP government’s claim regarding the launch of ONORC plan is misleading as a large number of migrant workers are unable to take the benefit of subsidised National Food Security Act (NFSA) food grains in Delhi as there is no full implementation.
The activists had sought directions to the Centre and states to ensure food security, cash transfers, transport facilities and other welfare measures for the migrant workers on grounds that they are in dire need for help as the crisis is bigger this time.
On May 24 this year, the top court had termed as “very slow” the process of registration of unorganised workers and had directed the authorities to provide dry ration and make operational community kitchens for migrant workers stranded throughout the country amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Referring to the resurgence of COVID-19 infections and consequent curbs, the activists, in their plea, had said, the problems and miseries faced by migrant workers during the lockdown in 2020 have persisted over the past year due to the continued economic distress and now have got aggravated on account of fresh restrictions, curfews and lockdowns being imposed in many states to control the spread of COVID.