April 20, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination




THE CONTEXT: The Supreme Court of India issued directives to all states and Union Territories to expedite the issuance of ration cards to 80 million migrant and unorganized workers within the next two months.


  • This directive addresses the failure of the Centre and states to comply with previous court orders and aims to ensure food security for vulnerable populations.


  • The Supreme Court emphasized the urgent need to issue ration cards to migrant and unorganized workers, irrespective of the quotas defined in Section 3 of the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
  • This directive aims to provide timely access to food grains under the Act to those in need.
  • The court expressed concern over the failure of governments to comply with its previous directive issued in April 2023, which mandated the issuance of ration cards to 80 million individuals registered on the eShram portal.
  • Delays were attributed to bureaucratic hurdles such as the requirement for eKYC updates for existing ration cardholders.
  • The directive highlighted the exclusion of over 100 million people from the food security net due to outdated census data used for determining ration card coverage.
  • As a result, states have exhausted their quotas under the NFSA, hindering the issuance of new ration cards.

Implications and Significance:

  • By directing the issuance of ration cards irrespective of NFSA quotas, the Supreme Court underscores the importance of inclusive welfare policies that prioritize equitable access to essential commodities for vulnerable populations, such as migrant and unorganized workers.
  • The court’s intervention serves as a legal mechanism to ensure the effective implementation of social welfare schemes and holds governments accountable for fulfilling their obligations towards marginalized communities.
  • This proactive approach reinforces the judiciary’s role in safeguarding citizens’ rights to food security.
  • Legal advocacy by counsels represents the concerted efforts of civil society organizations and activists to address systemic challenges faced by migrant workers.
  • Their representation amplifies the voices of marginalized communities and advocates for policy reforms to address their needs.

Challenges and Limitations:

  • Bureaucratic hurdles, including delays in updating eKYC data and reliance on outdated census figures, pose challenges to the timely issuance of ration cards.
  • Overcoming administrative bottlenecks requires coordinated efforts from multiple stakeholders and streamlined administrative processes.
  • The limitations of existing data systems, such as the eShram portal and One Nation, One Ration Card scheme, highlight the need for improved data integration and governance mechanisms to accurately identify and cater to the needs of migrant workers.
  • A comprehensive database capturing relevant demographic and socio-economic information is essential for targeted policy interventions.

National Food Security Act (NFSA):

  • According to the National Food Security Act- NFSA, up to 75% of the rural and half of the urban populations are entitled to subsidized food grains.
  • This is legally provided through the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • The TDPS covers 50% of the urban and 75% of the rural populations, with a uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month.
  • However, under Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), the poorest of the poor households will be receiving 35 kg of food grains per household per month. Therefore, almost two-thirds of the population is covered by this act.
  • Up to 75% of the rural and 50% of the urban populations are covered by NFSA through the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme and the priority households. The entitlements under the National Food Security Act include:
    • Priority homes are entitled to 5 kilograms of food per person per month.
    • While AAY households represent the lowest of the poor or are entitled to 35 kilograms per family per month.
    • The former Planning Commission (now Niti Aayog) used the NSS household consumption survey data for 2011-2012 to estimate the state-wise coverage under the NSSA. This corresponded to the coverage rates of all of India, of 75% and 50% in rural and urban regions, respectively.
    • The task of identifying potential households within the scope under TPDS established for each state is to be completed by states/UTs.

SOURCE: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/right-to-food-give-ration-cards-to-80-million-unorganised-and-migrant-workers-within-2-months-directs-sc-95113

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