Skip to main content

SC judgment on migrant workers gives only directions, sets no timeline: NAPM

Counterview Desk 

India’s premier civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), even as welcoming the recent Supreme Court (SC) judgment on rations for all migrant workers and time-bound registration of unorganized sector workers, has wondered if this would lead the state to implement the Unorganized Sector Workers Social Security Act and the Inter-state Migrant Workman Act, which remain on paper so far.
Pointing out that if implemented properly, these laws can have “a long-term impact on reducing the exploitation of migrant workers”, in a statement, it said, “While the directions are important and can potentially lead to nearly 13 crore additional people (over and above the current 80 crore) being provided ration cards, the SC has not given any timeline for this.”
NAPM said, despite the severe distress of workers in the pandemic, as recorded by the SC, it is dismaying to note that “the plea for emergency cash transfers to pay for basic necessities including rent, education of children, gas, oil, milk has not been accepted”. In fact, it added, terming it a ‘matter of policy and being in domain of the State’, the SC has “declined to give any directions in the absence of a specific scheme by the States/Union.”

Text:

The sudden and unplanned lockdown imposed by the union government in March 2020 in the wake of pandemic had caused immense hardship to the informal sector workers. After much criticism and concern on its inaction, Supreme Court on 26.05.2020 took suo moto cognizance of “problems and miseries of the migrant labourers”. Later, several persons associated with people’s organisations and movements filed intervention applications in this writ. On June 29, 2021 Supreme Court delivered its judgement after the matter was taken up again during the second wave of the pandemic.
Key directions from the judgment are summarised below:
Dry rations: The SC, while emphasizing right to food as a key facet of the fundamental right to life enshrined in Article 21 of the constitution, has directed the state governments to bring in place an appropriate scheme for distribution of dry ration by July 31, 2021. Such a scheme as per court’s order may continue till the current pandemic continues. Court has further given directions to the union government to allocate additional food grains for these state schemes. The SC has said that all 2.8 crore migrant workers identified under the Atma Nirbhar Scheme last year by states must also be supplied rations.
Cooked food through community kitchens: The SC has directed state governments to run community kitchens at prominent places where large number of migrant labourers are there, and these kitchens should continue to supply food at-least till the pandemic continues.
Portability of ration entitlements: SC has directed the states to implement the “One nation one ration card” scheme by July 31, 2021. This scheme provides portability of ration card throughout the country. Revision of state-wise coverage under NFSA: The SC has noted that more than 10 years have elapsed since the state-wise coverage for issuance of ration cards under NFSA was determined and updating the numbers to the latest population count is bound to increase the number of eligible persons. 
It has directed the centre “to take steps to undertake exercise under Section 9 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered under Rural and Urban areas of the State, which shall be beneficial to a large number of persons.”
Time-bound registration of migrant and unorganised sector workers: Criticising the tardy pace of registration of migrant and unorganised sector workers which adversely impacts their ability to access benefits under various schemes, the judgment notes, “the apathy and lackadaisical attitude by the Ministry of Labour and Employment is unpardonable”. 
Further, calling out the central and state governments for paying mere lip service to well-being of workers, the judgment states: 
“Tall claims by all the States and Union that they have implemented various welfare schemes for the migrant workers and unorganized workers remain only on paper without giving any benefit to unorganized workers.” 
The SC has directed: 
“The Central Government to develop the Portal … for registration of the unorganized labourers/migrant workers. We also impress upon and direct that the Central Government as well as the respective States and the Union Territories to complete the process of Portal for registration under National Data Base for Unorganised Workers (NDUW Project)…the process of registration of the unorganized labourers/migrant workers is completed at the earliest, but not later than 31.12.2021.” Further, it has directed, “all the States/Union Territories to register all establishments and license all contractors under the Act, 1979 and ensure that statutory duty imposed on the contractors to give particulars of migrant workers is fully complied with.”
Plea for emergency cash transfers to pay for basic necessities including rent, education of children, gas, oil, milk has not been accepted
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) welcomes the progressive aspects of the judgement and sincerely hopes that the Centre and state governments would implement these in right earnest, to ameliorate the conditions of the working class. The directions on ensuring dry grains and cooked for migrant workers till the end of the pandemic are significant. Registration of workers, a welcome measure, needs to be supplemented by new schemes that provide for them.
It remains to be seen, especially after the failure of the state to implement the Unorganized Sector Workers Social Security Act, 2008, how effective will be the implementation of SC direction to identify and register informal sector workers. Inter-state Migrant Workman Act, if implemented properly, can have a long-term impact on reducing the exploitation of migrant workers. 
Correcting the undercount problem in issuance of ration cards is a crucial issue. While the directions are important and can potentially lead to nearly 13 crore additional people (over and above the current 80 crore) being provided ration cards, the SC has not given any timeline for this.
However, in the face of the severe distress of workers in the pandemic, as recorded by the SC itself, we are of the opinion that the Apex Court has fallen short of delivering on its own observation of a “socialistic pattern of society”. We are dismayed to note that the plea for emergency cash transfers to pay for basic necessities including rent, education of children, gas, oil, milk has not been accepted. Terming it a “matter of policy and being in domain of the State”, the SC has declined to give any directions in the absence of a specific scheme by the states/union.
When millions have lost livelihoods and are struggling to pay for basic essentials, cash transfers are crucial to help people tide through this difficult period. The severe health crisis in the second wave forced many to take loans in order to pay for essential medicines and oxygen which were being sold at astronomical rates due to black markets. The world over, countries have done cash transfer schemes, which not only provide a life line to people in economic distress but also keep the local economy going.
The SC in its 80 page judgement has cited constitution bench judgement (National Textile Workers’ Union and Others Vs PR Ramakrishnan and Others (1983) 1 SCC 228 ) emphasizing the importance of workers in “socialistic pattern of society”. 
During this time of unprecedented distress, the central and state governments have failed to provide adequate economic package for people to meet their basic need of food, clothing and shelter when a large number of informal sector workers have lost work.
All evidence points to a deep crisis of increasing poverty (23 crore additional people have slipped below the poverty line in the last one year as per a Azim Premiji University report) and growing inequality (income of Indian billionaires grew by 35% during the lockdown while 84% of the households suffered varying degrees of income loss according to an Oxfam report).
We call upon the central government and state governments to universalise food security and provide cash transfers to the millions who have lost livelihoods and are struggling to survive.
---
Click here for signatories

Comments

TRENDING

Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

Muslim intellectuals met Bhagwat, extra-constitutional authority 'like Sanjay Gandhi'

By Shamsul Islam*  In a significant development a delegation of five Muslim intellectuals namely former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi; former senior bureaucrat Najeeb Jung; former AMU vice-chancellor and Lt Gen (retd) Zameer U Shah; politician-cum-journalist Shahid Siddiqui (presently with RLD); and businessman Saeed Shervani [Samajvadi Party] met RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat at RSS Delhi headquarters. The meeting was kept secret for reasons known to the participants and was held in August. According to the Muslim intellectuals the meeting held in “a very cordial” atmosphere continued for 75 minutes whereas time allotted was 30 minutes! In a post-meeting justification of the parleys Quraishi stated that their main concern was “the insecurity being increasingly felt by the Muslim community in the wake of recurring incidents of lynching of innocents, calls by Hindutva hotheads for genocide and the marginalisation of the community in almost every sphere”. This delegation consistin

'Massive concern for people': Modi seeking to turn India into global manufacturing hub

By Shankar Sharma*  The news item quoting Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, "Want to turn India into a manufacturing hub: PM Modi at SCO Summit" should be of massive concern to our people. One can only continue to be shocked by such policies, which can be termed as ill-conceived to say the least. Without objectively considering the environmental and social impacts on our communities in the medium to long term, such policies will also result in massive economic impacts because a lack of environmental and social perspective cannot be economically attractive either. In order to become the global manufacturing hub, India will have to meet an enormous demand for energy of various kinds, and in order to meet this much energy demand the economy has to manufacture enormous number of appliances/ gadgets/ machineries (to generate and distribute commercial forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, and renewable energy (RE) sources such as so

Denying dissent democratic space in Gujarat: 'sad narrative of eroding ethical values'

By Sandeep Pandey*  A padyatra (foot march) was to be taken out between 26 September and 4 October, 2022 from Randhikpur village in Dahod district of Gujarat to Ahmedabad to apologise to Bilkis Bano. Randhikpur is Bilkis Bano’s village. In 2002 Gujarat communal violence she was gang raped, her 3 years old daughter, another child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 people were convicted and sentenced for life in 2008. However, on 15 August, 2022 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a speech from Red Fort appealing to people to change their attitude towards women and treat them with respect, a district level committee of Panchmahal decided to release the 11 rapists and murderers. A Bhartiya Janata Party leader described four of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins. Before the padyatra could begin from Randhikpur, on 25 September night, 7 activists were picked up from Godhra corporator Hanif Kalandar’s house where they had gone for d

Pesticide companies' lobbying 'seriously impairing' basics of governance, regulation

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi*  The Indian agricultural sector is grappling with low incomes, shortage of natural resources, increasing pest incidence and low public investments in research and extension. Pest attacks are increasing. Previously unknown pests are attacking crops. Farmers, indebted as they are due to various market mechanisms, are finding it hard to protect their crop investments. Thus, farmers are pushed into the conundrum of pesticide usage by pesticide markets and companies. Pesticide usage in India is increasingly becoming a regulatory problem. Regulation has not been effective in the face of such challenges. Scientific expertise on pesticides is often subsumed in the policy tradeoffs that, in the ultimate scenario, encourage production and marketing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Expert Committee reports, which are recommending withdrawal of certain HHPs, are not being acted upon. Lobbying by pesticide companies has seriously impaired the basics of governance an

Kerala health bill public hearing? Here the minister 'ensured' cameras were turned off

By Our Representative  On Friday, September 30, 2022, about 100 members of the general public gathered at the conference room of the collectorate at Ernakulam, Kerala, to express their apprehensions about the Kerala Public Health Bill, 2021, which the state assembly referred to a 15-member select committee chaired by state health and family welfare minister, Veena George. Minister Veena George asserted at the outset that this was a sitting of the select committee, and all cameras would need to be turned off. Advocate PA Pouran, general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in Kerala, stood up in protest, arguing that the meeting was a public hearing and should ideally be televised to reach vast numbers of people. Other members of the audience protested too, but the minister insisted that the gathering was part of a sitting of the select committee.  “Why then did you invite all of us?” protested George Mathew, who had arrived from Aluva and earlier served as a member of t

How Gandhian values have become 'casualty' in India under majoritarian BJP rule

By Sandeep Pandey*  A Muslim youth was beaten recently when he tried to witness the famous garba performance during the Hindu religious nine days festival of Navratri in Gujarat. There was a time when Muslims could easily participate in Garbha events in an atmosphere of cordiality. Bilkis Bano was gang raped in 2002 Gujarat communal violence, her 3 years old daughter, the child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 accused were awarded life term. However, recently a District level committee has decided to release all the culprits. A ruling Bhartiya Janata Party leader has described some of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins, the highest among the Hindu hierarchical caste system. In a communally polarized Gujarat today most Muslims feel offended by the decision of the government and BJP supporters either justify the release of rapists and murderers or just ignore the ignominious decision. Mahatma Gandhi came from the Guj

GoI 'feeling threatened' by forces which can potentially fight 'Brahmanical fascism'

Counterview Desk  A network of civil rights and people’s organisations , Campaign Against State Repression (CASR)*, has characterised the recently-imposed ban on Popular Front of India (PFI), National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) and other organisations as “Brahmanical Hindutva fascist” move of the Government of India (GoI), calling it “onslaught on democratic dissent”. In a statement, CASR said, the move is aimed at terrorizing and vilifying the Muslim community, adding, at the same time, the GoI is curbing any protest and demonstration against the “fascist diktat of ban”, with peoplebeing “detained and arrested.” It added, “This kind of attack on right to oppose or criticize any step of government should be conceived as an attack on the very democratic values of the people.” Text : On 28 September 2022, Central Government led by BJP-RSS banned the Popular Front of India, National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, Campus Front of India, National Wom

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”