Explained: Apex And High Courts' Rulings On Migrant Labourers And Ration Shops Amid COVID-19

Explained: Apex And High Courts' Rulings On Migrant Labourers And Ration Shops Amid COVID-19A ration shop in Mumbai, Maharashtra (representative image) (Ramesh Patania/Mint via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • SC asked the government to expedite the process of registration of migrant workers so they can receive benefits under various schemes amid the COVID-19 pandemic

On Monday (24 May), Supreme Court said that regardless of the kind of lockdown being imposed, the migrant workers may just prefer to return to their home state.

The court also asked the government to expedite the process of registration of migrant workers so they can receive benefits under various schemes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bench said that the government must ensure that the benefits of schemes reach the migrant workers, and the process be monitored and supervised for effective results.

Last year, the court passed many orders for the welfare of migrant workers, including on the registration of migrant workers; not charging fare from them; and providing them food for free till they board trains or buses.

The court was hearing a suo motu case to provide migrant labourer families stranded in the big cities dry rations, cooked food and public transport to go back home.

When the government told the court that the situation was different this year with no nation-wide lockdown, the bench comprising of Justices M R Shah and Ashok Bhushan said:

“Whether it was the national lockdown in 2020 or the mini lockdowns in 2021, psychologically, the attitude of migrant workers remains the same — they would want to go home.”

The Union government said that it had opened control rooms., but to provide food etc. to the migrant labourers was the responsibility of the State governments.

The court said unorganised labourers, wandering from one place of work to another in mega cities, could not be expected to have ration cards under the National Food Security Act.

The court made it clear that it was dissatisfied with the efforts of the Centre as well as the States on the issue of registration of unorganised workers.

The bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Union government, that in 2018, the Ministry of Labour and Employment had told that it has started a national database of unorganised workers.

The bench asked him to apprise the court about the current status of the above mentioned national database of unorganised workers. “This registration should be completed and it should be on an all-India basis,” the bench said.

The bench directed that the stranded migrant workers all around the country be provided dry ration under the 'Atmanirbhar Bharat Scheme' or any other suitable programme by the Centre and the States.

It also asked the Centre to file a further affidavit detailing everything it has done to provide dry rations to migrant workers under the Atmanirbhar scheme.

Meanwhile, Allahabad High Court quashed Uttar Pradesh government’s order which gave preference to self-help groups in the allotment of fair price shops.

The High Court said that the order would likely result in a "monopoly" and "worsen" the flaws of the Public Distribution System (PDS) because self-help groups have a "weak legal identity" when it comes to fixing accountability.

The court also held the government order violative of the right to equality under Article 14 as it didn’t treat other eligible entities like individual village residents, cooperative societies or gram panchayats at par with self-help group.

The single judge bench of Justice Attaur Rahman Masoodi further noted that the right to food was a fundamental right under Article 21.

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