30 JUNE 2021



“A government cannot abdicate its duties to feed migrant workers, especially during a pandemic, merely because they did not have ration cards. There is a large number of such migrants who do not possess any card.  Their disability is due to their poverty and lack of education”, the Supreme Court said in a landmark judgement on 29 June 2021.

The Supreme Court set 31 July as the deadline for the central and state governments to provide food to the migrant population, who form one-fourth of the country’s population.

“The States/Union Territories have to make extra efforts to reach migrant labourers so that no migrant labourer is denied two meals a day”, the Supreme Court directed.

After the imposition of nationwide lockdown, there was a huge exodus of the migrant labourers from their workplace to their native places due to loss of job and fear of the pandemic.

The supreme Court observes that when large number of migrant labourers started walking on highways on foot, cycles and other modes of transport without food and facing several untold miseries, the Court suo moto took cognizance of the problems and miseries by its order on 26 May 2020.

“According to a survey carried out by the National Statistics Office(NSO) in 2017-18, there are around 38 crores workers engaged in the unorganised sectors. Thus the number of persons in the unorganised sector is more than 1/4th population of the entire country. These unorganised workers did not have any permanent source of employment and have engaged themselves in small time vocations and occupations at various places away from their native places. Contributions of these labourers towards different projects, industries, make considerable additions in the economic development of the country”,   Supreme Court observed.

“When the migrant labourers form more than 1/4th population of the country, all Governments/authorities have to take special care regarding welfare of these migrant workers/labourers”.

“The Right to Life as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution gives the right to every human being to live a life of dignity with access to at least bare necessities of life”,  Supreme Court said.

Supreme Court disposed the writ petitions with the following directions :

 Central government should develop the portal in consultation with NIC for the registration of the unorganised labourers/migrant workers.

  Allocate and distribute food grains as per the demand of additional food grains from the States for disbursement to migrant labourers. 

 Implement ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ Scheme not later than 31 July 2021.

 State shall consider and bring an appropriate Scheme, which may be implemented on or before 31 July 2021 and shall continue till the current pandemic continues.

 Central government should re-determine the total number of persons to be covered under the Rural and Urban areas of the State as per Section 9 of the National Food Security Act, 2013.

 Register all establishments and license all Contractors under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen/Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services Act, 1979.

 Run Community Kitchens at prominent places for those migrant labourers, who do not have sufficient means to procure two meals a day. The community kitchen should be continued till the end of the pandemic.

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