Provide ration cards to registered migrant workers in 2 months: SC

The order was passed in a suo motu petition on the problems and miseries faced by migrant labourers pending in court since 2020, when the lockdown imposed during the Covid pandemic

Additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati told the court that the Centre was committed to complying with the court’s order (ANI)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed states and Union territories (UTs) to provide ration cards to all migrant labourers registered with the e-Shram portal within two months, after it was told by a group of citizens that out of the total of 288 million labourers registered on the portal, nearly 80 million do not have ration cards to avail benefits under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

The order was passed in a suo motu petition on the problems and miseries faced by migrant labourers pending in court since 2020, when the lockdown imposed during the Covid pandemic left many of them distraught as they headed back to villages due to lack of income or food in cities.

Considering the plight of the workers, a bench of justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah told the Centre, states and UTs to ensure that all labourers registered on the e-Shram portal are provided ration cards. The court noted that this direction was issued to the Centre on April 20, 2023, and that there has been no compliance almost a year later.

Additional solicitor general (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati told the court that the Centre was committed to complying with the court’s order, and indicated that the government is was the process of matching data of NFSA beneficiaries with those listed in the e-Shram portal.

The court told Bhati that this e-KYC process cannot hold up distribution of ration cards to beneficiaries, and since the public distribution system falls under states, gave a period of two months to comply with its order of April last year.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who represented a group of individuals who intervened in the suo motu proceedings, told the court that ration cards are not issued to migrant labourers as the NFSA provides a ceiling on ration cards of 75% in rural and 50% in urban areas, which has already been exhausted.

The top court then directed the states and UTs to provide ration cards irrespective of the quota.

Bhushan also told the court that under NFSA, there are presently 813 million beneficiaries, calculated as per 2011 census. He said that a decade has gone by since then, and a sizeable chunk of beneficiaries will remain outside tshe food security net if the census figure is not updated. The court will take up the matter next month.

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