One Nation, One Ration card must by July 31: SC
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One Nation, One Ration card must by July 31: SC

June 30, 2021

New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday 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 pandemic continues.

Maintaining that right to food was included in right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, a Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan said Governments were duty-bound to provide food security to migrant workers exposed to financial and other hardships amid COVID. 

“There is a large number of such migrants who do not possess any card. Their above disability is due to their poverty and lack of education. A large number of migrant workers are not able to get jobs which may satisfy their basic needs. A Government cannot abdicate its duties to feed migrant workers, especially during a pandemic, merely because they did not have ration cards,” the Court noted. 

The SC directed the Centre to allocate additional foodgrain to the States and UTs as per their demand for distribution among migrants. It also asked the Centre to set up a portal for registering migrant workers to create a national database for the scheme.

 “We direct the States to bring in place a scheme for distribution of dry ration to migrant labourers,” said the Bench, which also included Justice M.R. Shah. The SC pulled up the Labour Ministry for its “lackadaisical attitude” in dealing with the issue.  “When the unorganised workers are waiting for registration to reap the benefits of welfare schemes, the apathy of the Ministry of Labour and Employment is unpardonable,” the Court noted.

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Right to food, one of the bare necessities of life, was an intrinsic part of the right to live with dignity, the Court told the Government. “States/UTs have to make extra efforts to reach migrant labourers so that no migrant labourer is denied two meals a day. Community kitchens must be run at prominent places for feeding those migrant labourers who do not have sufficient means to procure two meals a day,” it said. 

Both, in the first and the second wave of the pandemic, migrant workers had been exposed to financial and other forms of hardships due to their limited access and claim to the welfare resources. Migrant labourers are particularly vulnerable to the economic regression, the court noted. It suggested that the Centre ought to redetermine the beneficiaries under the Food Security Act in both the urban and rural areas.

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