April 21, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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RIGHT TO FOOD: GIVE RATION CARDS TO 80 MILLION UNORGANISED AND MIGRANT WORKERS WITHIN 2 MONTHS, DIRECTS SC

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THE CONTEXT: India’s Supreme Court has ordered all states and Union Territories to issue ration cards to 80 million migrant and unorganized workers who are excluded from the food security network. These workers were previously registered on the eShram portal but lacked ration cards, which deprived them of essential food grains under the NFSA. The court has criticized the central and state governments for their failure to comply with previous orders and for causing unnecessary delays through bureaucratic procedures like eKYC updates.

ISSUES:

  • Lack of Ration Cards for Migrant and Unorganized Workers: The Supreme Court noted that around 80 million migrant and unorganized workers registered on the eShram portal do not possess ration cards. This means these workers are unable to avail themselves of the benefits of monthly food grains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). The court has now directed all states and Union Territories to issue ration cards to these 80 million workers within the next 2 months.
  • Impediments in Issuing Ration Cards: The court noted that unnecessary delays were being caused by putting in impediments such as requiring eKYC of all 800 million ration cardholders to be updated before issuing new cards. The court directed that the eKYC exercise can happen contemporaneously and must not come in the way of issuing ration cards.
  • Outdated Census Data and Quota Limitations: The coverage of persons getting rations under the NFSA is based on the 2011 census, even though the population has increased since then. This has led to the exclusion of more than 100 million people from the food security net. Most states have exhausted their quotas of ration card beneficiaries under the NFSA and are thus unable to issue new cards. The court ordered that states/UTs shall issue ration cards to the additional 80 million people and not be bound by the quotas defined in the NFSA.
  • Ineffective Government Schemes: Experts noted that neither the One Nation, One Ration Card scheme nor the eShram portal have been able to effectively address the problems faced by migrant workers in accessing food rations. Many migrant workers remain excluded and unable to claim food grains or even vote. The eShram portal has also failed to capture segregated data about migrant workers.

THE WAY FORWARD:

  • Policy Framework for Inclusion of Internal Migrant Workers: Ensure access to housing, nutrition, sanitation, healthcare, and legal aid for migrants, especially in migrant-dense clusters. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Interventions and plan emergency responses with a focus on the vulnerabilities of migrant workers.
  • Continuation of Education and Prevention of Child Labour: Link access to education and childcare with basic urban provisioning for migrant workers. Interstate collaborations should be established to ensure smooth transition of children between schools. Employers with a large migrant workforce must invest in basic housing and WASH infrastructure and uphold safety standards at worksites.
  • Improvements to the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) Scheme: Extend community kitchens and dry ration provision to all migrant workers across India. The ONORC scheme aims to reduce class and caste discrimination by providing essential commodities to every needy citizen, thus enabling the ‘Right to Food’.
  • NITI Aayog’s Draft National Policy on Migrant Workers: Coordinate between Ministries, states, and local departments to implement programs for migrants. Create a special unit within the Ministry of Labour and Employment to help converge activities of other Ministries.
  • Migration Resource Centres: Manage migration resource centres in high migration zones and establish inter-state migration management bodies. Maintain a central database to help employers fill the gap between demand and supply of labor. Ensure consistent definitions of migrants and incorporate migrant-specific variables in existing surveys.
  • Legal and Governance Measures: Amend the Inter State Migrant Workers Act, 1979, for effective utilization to protect migrants. This includes covering independent migrants not migrating through a contractor. Ensure that ration cards are issued to 80 million unorganized and migrant workers within 2 months, irrespective of the quotas defined in the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

THE CONCLUSION:

The Supreme Court’s directive to issue ration cards to 80 million migrant and unorganized workers is a significant step toward social justice. The court has emphasized the need for immediate action and highlighted the urgency of addressing bureaucratic impediments in fulfilling fundamental human rights. This move is expected to pave the way for more inclusive policies that recognize and address the challenges migrant workers face in India.

UPSC PAST YEAR QUESTIONS:

Q. How far do you agree with the view that the focus on lack or availability of food as the main cause of hunger takes the attention away from ineffective human development policies in India? (2018)

Q. What are the salient features of the National Food Security Act, 2013? How has the Food Security Bill helped in eliminating hunger and malnutrition in India? (2021)

MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. Critically analyze the implications of the Supreme Court’s directive to issue ration cards to 80 million migrant and unorganized workers registered on the eShram portal, considering the challenges posed by the non-updation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) quotas based on the latest census data.

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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