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SC order: Eight crore migrant, stranded, needy workers get 'much needed' relief

By Our Representative 

Senior civil rights leaders Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj and Jagdeep Chhokar have welcomed the Supreme Court (SC) order in the suo motu matter regarding the problems and distress being faced by migrant workers, calling it “a positive first step towards providing much needed relief to migrant workers, who are the worst hit by the lockdowns and restrictions imposed by several states to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The SC order directed the Central government and governments of Delhi, UP and Haryana to provide dry rations to migrant workers in National Capital Region under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Scheme or any other scheme with effect from May 2021, insisting, while providing dry ration, the authorities of the states should not insist on an identity card for those migrant labourers who do not possess them for the time being and give ration on the basis of self-declaration made by the stranded migrant labourers.
The order also directed governments of Delhi, UP and Haryana to open community kitchen at well advertised places (in the National Capital Region) for stranded migrant labourers so that they and their family members who are stranded could get two meals a day, even as asking the three governments to ensure adequate transport stranded migrant labourers who want to return to their home. At the same time, it asked the Centre to issue necessary instructions to the Ministry of Railways to take necessary and adequate measures to cater to the need of migrant labourers.
At the same time, the order asked NCT of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Orissa to file specific responses with regard to earlier directions on ensuring registration of migrant workers under various laws, and provision of schemes for their food security, health insurance etc.
The order follows an intervention filed in the SC on April 29 highlighting that the second wave of Covid-19 and the consequent lockdowns imposed by several states were once again disrupting the lives and livelihoods of migrant workers resulting in food insecurity and inability to afford even basic needs including rent and medical expenses.
The intervention highlighted that the situation was even worse than last year as economically vulnerable people, especially migrant workers, had exhausted their meagre savings to cope with the crisis in 2020.
Petition sought putting in place effective grievance redress mechanisms, including helplines for distressed migrant workers
The intervention sought the provision of dry rations for migrant workers who do not possess ration cards through Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme, or any other scheme, to all eight crore migrant labourers/ stranded or needy persons who were identified under the scheme last year and to all workers registered under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act.
Further, it sought provision of free cooked food through networks of community kitchens, hunger relief and feeding centres at places where distressed migrant workers are congregating such as industrial areas, homeless shelters, bus stations, train stations and other areas to ensure no one remains hungry.
To compensate for the loss of livelihood, the intervention, represented by senior advocates Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’souza, prayed for cash transfers equivalent to the notified minimum wage of different states to all migrant workers for the period that economic activity is adversely impacted by lockdowns and also provision of affordable transport facility to those desirous of returning to their hometown.
Finally, the petition sought putting in place effective grievance redress mechanisms, including helplines for distressed migrant workers and for the state governments and central government to make public details of all social and food security schemes put in place for providing relief to migrant workers.

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