On Tuesday, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Centre while hearing a plea filed by three activists, seeking welfare measures for the migrant workers. The bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice M R Shah slammed the Centre for its "lackadaisical attitude" towards creating National Database for Unorganized Workers (NDUW) and called it “unpardonable”.
“When the unorganized workers are waiting for registration and are waiting to reap the benefit of various welfare schemes of the States and Centre, the apathy and lackadaisical attitude by the Ministry of Labour and Employment is unpardonable. There was urgency in the portal to be finalized and implemented looking to the pandemic and dire need of unorganized workers to receive the benefit,” said the SC.
The bench has demanded the commencement of NDUW by 31st July so that all the migrant workers can register themselves this year and as a result get welfare measures in this time of distress. It referred to its order of August 2018 and asked the Ministry of Labor and Employment to provide directions to the States and Union Territories for the registration of the migrants. It harshly stated that the stand taken by the Centre did not commend them.
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It also issued directions to the authorities concerned and ordered States and Union Territories to frame schemes to provide free dry ration to migrant workers till the pandemic lasts. Whereas for the schemes that are to be executed by the states, the Centre was ordered to allocate additional food- grains. It asked the Department of Food and Public Distribution to look after the allocation and distribution of additional demand made by the States. The labor contractors were also asked to cooperate with the Centre for the completion of the registration process.
The apex court gave an ultimatum to the states for implementing “One Nation, One Ration Card” scheme by 31st of July.
Justice Bhushan, in his 80-page judgment, referred to the worldwide awareness on right to food of human beings. In his opinion right to food must be included in the right to life covered under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.