• SC urges that states and UTs execute the "one nation, one ration card" programme

    National

    According to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, speaking for the Centre during the hearing, ONORC has not yet been introduced in states like Delhi, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, and Assam, according to Solicitor General Mehta.

    Digital Desk: The "one nation, one ration card" (ONORC) programme, which enables migrant workers to get rations at their places of employment in other states where their ration cards are not registered, must be implemented, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday, ordering states and union territories to do so.

    The top court also raised concerns with the Centre about how the benefit of free food grain until November this year under the "Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna" would reach migrant workers without ration cards. The top court also took strong note of the delay in developing software meant to register workers in the unorganised sector in order to create a national database.

    Anjali Bharadwaj, Harsh Mander, and Jagdeep Chhokar, activists, have filed a new application asking the Centre and states to ensure food security, cash transfers, transportation facilities, and other welfare measures for migrant workers on the grounds that they are in desperate need of assistance as the crisis is worse this time around. A vacation bench made up of justices Ashok Bhushan and M.R. Shah has also reserved its verdict on this new application.

    The bench requested written notes on the case from the Center, the petitioner activists, and the states.

    The application was submitted in the ongoing suo motu case from 2020 about the difficulties encountered by migrant workers as a result of restrictions imposed by the government amid an uptick in COVID-19 instances.

    According to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, speaking for the Centre during the hearing, ONORC has not yet been introduced in states like Delhi, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, and Assam, according to Solicitor General Mehta.

    The counsel for Delhi, however, disputed the submission, stating it had been implemented.

    The bench said, "You must implement it," when the attorney for West Bengal complained that there were certain problems with seeding with Aadhaar numbers. This is for migrant workers' welfare, which are eligible for rations in every state. The bench expressed concern over how migratory workers who do not own ration cards will be able to make use of social programmes.

    "How about registering employees in unorganised sectors?" Why should software development take so long? The bench questioned Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, who was also representing the Centre, saying that you may have started it in August of last year, and it is still ongoing.

     

    The bench questioned why the centre still needs a few extra months to produce the software that can assist in compiling a nationwide database of workers.

    Why do you still need three to four months? You are not carrying out any research... However, all you are doing is building a module to allow data to be supplied into your process, it seems.

    The "strong" mechanism that is being created will assist authorities in "monitoring and oversight" of the schemes.

    "Why is it going to take so long? The bench noted that you are merely developing a piece of software to build the national database.

    Senior attorney Dushyant Dave, who was representing the activists, stated at the opening that assistance programmes needed to be made available to everyone who lacked ration cards because the situation was worse this year.

    The Solicitor General responded by stating that the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna has been extended through November of this year and that each member of these families will receive free food grains totaling five kilogrammes per month. In addition, the Solicitor General stated that other welfare programmes must be developed and implemented by the states.

    Despite statements made by government officials, the matter has not been adequately handled, according to Colin Gonsalves, a prominent counsel who also cited a number of prior rulings of the highest court on the registration of migrant workers.

    On May 24, the top court had previously criticised the registration process for unorganised employees as being "extremely slow" and had ordered the government to set up communal kitchens and give dry rations for migrant workers who were stranded across the nation due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

    The activists stated in their appeal that the issues and suffering experienced by migrant workers during the lockdown in 2020 have persisted over the past year due to the ongoing economic distress and have now become worse as a result of new restrictions, curfews, and lockdowns being implemented in many states to control the spread of Covid.In May last year, the top court had taken suo motu 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 for free till they board trains or buses.

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