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Food should reach the homes of every migrant worker: SC

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    29th Jul, 2022

Context

The Supreme Court, in an application seeking compliance with its judgment regarding the problems and miseries of migrant labourers, indicated that modalities have to be worked out by the Central and State Governments to ensure that migrant workers are provided ration at any cost.

About

What is the issue?

  • This case was originally taken up suomotu by the apex court during the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns in light of distress and problems being faced by migrant workers.
  • Last year Supreme Court directed all states and Union Territories (UT) to implement the One Nation, One Ration Card (ONORC) system by 31st July 2021.
    • The scheme allowed the migrant labourersto be covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to access food at any fair price shop with its ration card in any part of the country.

Courts observation

  • The welfare schemes devised by the Centre should reach a maximum number of workers and the state governments will have to cooperate and assist the Union of India.
  • SC was critical while making the judgment and slammed the government for not managing the issue well.
  • Ensuring justice for the migrants is the duty of the elected government, the court can only push the cart, but the government has to drive it.

    NFSA covers up to 75 percent of the rural population and 50 percent of the urban population under Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority households. However, this number is based on the census of 2011. There has been a 15 percent increase in the population eligible for ration cards and they are deprived.

Importance of Migrants:

  • There are around 38 crore workers engaged in the unorganized sectors (National Statistics Office (NSO) data of 2017-2018).
  • These unorganized workers did not have any permanent source of employment and engaged themselves in small-time vocations and occupations at various places away from their native places.
  • Contributions of these labourers towards different projects, and industries, make considerable additions to the economic development of the country
  • In a report titled, “Migration in India 2020-21” the survey gives an account of the state of migration and migrants from July 2020 to July 2021.
    • It surveyed a total of 1,13,998 migrants and shows that 51.6% of rural migrants migrated from urban areas in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Constitutional Provisions and Legislations for migrant workers in India:

  • Right to Food: The fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution may be interpreted to include the right to live with human dignity, having the right to food, and other basic necessities.
  • Other important legislation:
    • The Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923
    • Payment of Wages Act, 1936
    • Minimum Wages Act, 1948
    • The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961
    • Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
    • The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

What are the issues faced by migrant workers?

  • Major issues: Below are the major challenges faced by the migrant workers in India (especially the unorganized workers)
    • low wages
    • physical and sexual exploitation
    • Lack of safety inthe workplace
    • No job security
  • Lack of policy implementation:Although, the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 was enacted to regulate the condition of service of inter-state labourers in Indian labour law but this is the least implemented Act among all the legislations

What needs to be done?

  • Identification of migrant labourers:The creation of a credible real-time database of inter-state migrant workers is crucial.
  • Data Requirement: Extensive data need to be culled out from the e-shram portal, where 27.95 crore workers have registered, to see how many own a ration card.
    • This will not only help to work out policies in a better way but ensure how much progress a particular scheme or policy has made.

Aboutthe e-Shram portal:

  • The formation of the e-Shram portal came after the Supreme Court directed the Government to complete the registration process of unorganized workers so that they can avail the welfare benefits given under various government schemes.
  • Governments in States/UTs are supposed to conduct registration of unorganized workers across the country.
  • Alternative Schemes: There is a high probability that many will remain uncovered from existing schemes.
    • Over 75% of migrant workers in the State do not possess ration cards.
    • Maharashtra has covered only 36% of migrant workers in the State.
    • So those without cards should be provided rations either through the National Food Security Act or through some other scheme.
    • Free Distribution of Dry ration without insistence on identity proof, as many are still distant from the coverage of various schemes.
  • Community kitchens: Community kitchens will be of the community, run by the community & for the welfare of the community.
    • It will be built on 4 pillars of Quality, Hygiene, Reliability& Spirit of Service. It will help us realize the goal that no one Sleeps Hungry.
    • Additional Procurement: Additional grains can be procured by states at the Food Corporation of India to support the existing schemes as many times states struggle to buy rations at market rates.

Government Initiatives:

  • National Career Service portal: It has been created as a one-stop solution that provides a wide array of employment and career-related services to the citizens of India.
  • Pradhan MantriShram Yogi Maan-Dhan (PM-SYM): It is aimed at ensuring old age protection for unorganized workers.
  • GaribKalyanRojgarAbhiyan
  • Pradhan Mantri SVANIDHI Scheme
  • Pradhan MantriGaribKalyan Yojana
  • One Nation One Ration Card
  • Financial assistance to Building and Other Construction workers etc.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court specifically said that two people are very important. First is the farmer i.e. the agriculturist and the second is migrant workers. Migrants have a definite role in building the nation. Their rights cannot be ignored at all and the only solace they want is that the government must take care of them and their families. No citizen should die of hunger and food should reach the homes of every migrant worker.

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