Migrants and Supreme Court
Migrants and Supreme Court
Litigation News

Application in Supreme Court seeks extension of Atma Nirbhar Scheme for provision of rations to migrant workers for at least 12 months

The application points out that while the Atma Nirbhar Scheme was announced by the Centre for the benefit of the 8 crore migrants workers, it was in effect only for a period of two months - May and June.

Shruti Mahajan

An application has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking the extension of provision of rations to stranded migrant workers under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan Scheme.

The scheme, introduced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, provides that migrant workers who are not beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act or the state Public Distribution System will be provided 5 kg of grains per person and 1 kg of chana per family per month for two months.

The plea moved by Harsh Mander, Anjali Bharadwaj, and Jagdeep Chhokar seeks a direction to the Central government to extend the benefit of the Scheme for another 12 months.

The applicants had earlier sought to intervene in the suo motu matter taken up by the Supreme Court concerning the plight of the migrant workers. They highlighted the situation around loss of livelihood and lack of arrangement for transporting the migrants.

In this fresh application, the lack food security is sought to be highlighted.

The application points out that while the Atma Nirbhar Scheme was announced by the Centre for the benefit of the 8 crore migrants workers, it was in effect only for a period of two months - May and June. The scheme was not extended beyond the two months despite the Disaster Management Act still being in effect.

“This is a violation of the right to food and right to life of crores of people and will cause further distress among migrant workers.”
Application filed in Supreme Court

The government’s own data shows that the scheme for distribution of food has been underutilised, the application says. It adds that while the period for distribution of the unutilised rations stands extended till August 31, the scheme itself is still in effect only for May and June and has not been extended yet.

“It is submitted that unless a proper system for accountability is set up in each state, the benefits of the scheme are unlikely to reach the intended beneficiaries i.e. migrant workers... At a time when people are struggling due to loss of income generating capacities and economic distress, it is inexplicable that governments are not lifting and distributing foodgrains.”

While the Atma Nirbhar scheme for those not covered under the NFSA or state PDS is only in effect for May and June, in contrast the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) for ration card holders has been extended till November this year, it is further highlighted.

At a time like this, not extending assistance for migrant workers, who form the class of people that is worst hit by the pandemic and lockdown “is in violation of the fundamental right to food of people as protected under article 21", the application claims.

Also sought are directions to the Centre as well as all the states to ensure that a proper mechanism is put in place for facilitating distribution of foodgrains and dry ration to implement the Atma Nirbhar Scheme.

Pointing out that the provision of hot pre-cooked meals has been discontinued, the application prays for the Court to direct the authorities to continue this service through designated relief camps at least till the end of December this year.

“The situation of hunger and food insecurity is especially dire as in several states the provision of free cooked meals through shelters and rellef centres has been discontinued.”
Application filed in Supreme Court

Additionally, the application seeks a status report as regards payment of wages to the workers without deductions for the period of lockdown. A direction to the authorities to provide financial assistance to self-employed workers who have been adversely affected by the lockdown is also sought.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news