Groundxero report: Tuesday, 25 May 2021
On May 24, 2021, Monday, the Supreme Court directed that dry ration has to be distributed to migrant workers wherever stranded throughout the country by the States under the Atma Nirbhar Scheme or any other scheme found suitable by the States/Centre. The Court also directed all the States/Union Territories to make operational community kitchens to provide food to migrant workers all over the country and ensure wide publicity of the locations of the community kitchens.
It is the responsibility of the State/Union Territories to provide Community Kitchen to the stranded migrant workers, who have lost their employment and are in need of two meals a day. – Supreme Court.
A two-judge bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah passed these directions on an intervention filed on April 29, 2021, by activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Choker in suo moto proceedings of the Supreme Court started in 2020 during the first wave of Covid and the subsequent nationwide lockdown.
In their intervention filed through Advocates Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’Souza, the activists pointed out that nearly 8 crore migrant labourers are facing acute hardships because of the second wave of Covid 19. They stated that last year, in 2020, when the nationwide lockdown was imposed on 24 March, migrant labourers were the great sufferers because of cessation of their employment, they being left with no financial support to sustain themselves leading to large exodus from metro cities like Delhi and Bombay. During the hearing, it was highlighted that the situation is even worse than last year. People, especially the working poor, are facing a double crisis of health and economic distress. They cited report estimating that around 23 crore Indians have been pushed into poverty during the past one year (‘State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid-19’ by Azim Premji University).
On the issue of cash transfers, the Supreme Court noted that while some states have made schemes for providing transfers to registered construction workers, no such scheme is in place with regard to other unorganised workers. The Court observed, “We are of the view that cash transfer is a matter of policy and scheme framed by each State/Union Territory and no direction for cash transfer can be issued by this Court to any category of person unless they are covered by any scheme formulated by the State/Union Territory. In the affidavits, which are to be filed by the States/Union Territories, details of the schemes regarding cash transfer be also brought on record.”
In the last hearing on May 13, these measures were only restricted to migrant workers in the Delhi NCR area and the plea to universalise them to all migrant workers across India has been accepted by the Court.
The SC had also sought the status of registrations under various statutes meant for welfare of migrant workers. Despite directions last year by the SC, a perusal of the affidavits filed by the Union of India and state governments show the slow pace at which registrations have happened with many of the portals and registration systems still at the stage of being developed. The SC has given directions for time-bound registrations under the various portals and laws to ensure that benefits reach migrant workers.
The pdf of the full order is attached below: