Skip to main content

Most concerning there were deaths due to hunger: SC in Migrant Workers Case

By Anjali Bhardwaj, Harsh Mander, Jagdeep Chhokar* 

The Supreme Court has heard an application (MA 94/2022) seeking compliance with its judgement in Suo Motu Writ Petition regarding Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers (Suo Motu Writ Petition 6/2020). The matter was heard by the bench of Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna.
The case was originally suo motu taken up by the SC during the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns in light of distress and problems being faced by migrant workers, who upon sudden cessation of economic activities due to lockdowns, were suddenly rendered without any income, place to stay and no means to reach back to their homes.
In the absence of any planning by the government for the fate of migrant workers, lakhs of workers with their families in tow, walked hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes. Many perished on the way.
The SC had, in June 2021, given comprehensive directions while disposing the case including:
  • Direction to the Central government to undertake exercise under Section 9 of the National Food Security Act, 2013 to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered in Rural and Urban areas of the State under the Public Distribution System of NFSA as the coverage is still based on 2011 census.
  • Direction to all state governments to bring in place an appropriate scheme for distribution of dry ration to migrant workers without insistence on furnishing of identity proof, and continue such scheme till the time the pandemic continues
  • Direction to all state governments to run community kitchens at prominent places where large number of migrant labourers are found, to provide cooked food and continue this till such time the pandemic continues.
The SC had also directed the Central government to operationalise and prioritise the registration of unorganised sector workers and migrant workers.
In January 2022, in light of flagrant violations of the directions of the SC by the Central government and state governments, a petition was filed to highlight the non-compliance by the respondents.
In the July 21 hearing, it was pointed out by the petitioners that the Central government had failed to undertake any exercise to re-determine coverage under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), and as a result more than 10 crore people who should have been issued ration cards were left out of the purview of the food security net.
As per the affidavit of the Union of India, the census of 2021 has been delayed indefinitely on account of Covid pandemic, and therefore, no expansion of coverage is possible till such time that the census is published which is unlikely to happen in the next couple of years.
It was suggested by the counsel for petitioners that in light of the delay, the government could use official population projections published by the Health Ministry to expand the coverage.
The bench observed that migrant and other workers are the backbone of the country and they must be provided rations at subsidized rates. Justice Nagarathna said that no citizen should die of hunger and it was most concerning that there were deaths due to hunger. She further observed that in villages and in marginalised communities people tie a tight cloth around their stomach to supress their hunger pangs.
It was highlighted by the counsel for the petitioners that of the 27.95 crore workers registered on the e-shram portal, it must be verified how many persons possessed ration cards and those without cards must be provided rations either by including them under NFSA or through some other scheme.
Affidavit filed by Telangana government recorded that over 75% of migrant workers do not possess ration cards
It was further pointed out that as per the affidavit filed by Telangana government it is recorded that over 75% of migrant workers do not possess ration cards (46,776 of the 60,980 migrant workers). 
The bench observed that the purpose of registration is to facilitate access to all applicable welfare benefits and asked the Union of India to place before it the particulars that are captured while registering workers. The bench said that if those who are registered do not possess ration cards, the government must immediately make arrangement to provide foodgrains at subsidized costs to them.
On the issue of states implementing schemes for providing rations to migrant workers for which foodgrains are to be provided by the Central government through the Food Corporation of India (FCI), it was highlighted by the petitioners that the grains are being provided at very high rates by central government, making it difficult for states to evolve a scheme.
In this regard, the correspondence between the Telangana government and the Central government was pointed out which was also included in a note submitted on behalf of the petitioners.
The bench, after hearing the matter, said they will pass orders summarising the steps taken so far and what further needs to be done in terms of its directions contained in the judgment of June 2021.
Counsels Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’Souza represented the petitioners in the matter.
*Petitioners in Miscellaneous Application 94 of 2022. Intervenors in suo motu petition (civil) 6/2020



Vaccine nationalism? Covaxin isn't safe either, perhaps it's worse: Experts

By Rajiv Shah  I was a little awestruck: The news had already spread that Astrazeneca – whose Indian variant Covishield was delivered to nearly 80% of Indian vaccine recipients during the Covid-19 era – has been withdrawn by the manufacturers following the admission by its UK pharma giant that its Covid-19 vector-based vaccine in “rare” instances cause TTS, or “thrombocytopenia thrombosis syndrome”, which lead to the blood to clump and form clots. The vaccine reportedly led to at least 81 deaths in the UK.

'Scientifically flawed': 22 examples of the failure of vaccine passports

By Vratesh Srivastava*   Vaccine passports were introduced in late 2021 in a number of places across the world, with the primary objective of curtailing community spread and inducing "vaccine hesitant" people to get vaccinated, ostensibly to ensure herd immunity. The case for vaccine passports was scientifically flawed and ethically questionable.

'Misleading' ads: Are our celebrities and public figures acting responsibly?

By Deepika* It is imperative for celebrities and public figures to act responsibly while endorsing a consumer product, the Supreme Court said as it recently clamped down on misleading advertisements.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Palm oil industry 'deceptively using geenwashing' to market products

By Athena*  Corporate hypocrisy is a masterclass in manipulation that mostly remains undetected by consumers and citizens. Companies often boast about their environmental and social responsibilities. Yet their actions betray these promises, creating a chasm between their public image and the grim on-the-ground reality. This duplicity and severely erodes public trust and undermines the strong foundations of our society.

US 'frustrated' with India’s discomfort: Maritime exercise in South China Sea

By Vijay Prashad*  In early April 2024, the navies of four countries -- Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and the United States -- held a maritime exercise in the South China Sea. Australia’s Warramunga, Japan’s Akebono, the Philippines’ Antonio Luna, and the United States’ Mobile worked together in these waters to strengthen their joint abilities and -- as they said in a joint statement  -- to “uphold the right to freedom of navigation and overflight and respect for maritime rights under international law.” 

No compensation to family, reluctance to file FIR: Manual scavengers' death

By Arun Khote, Sanjeev Kumar*  Recently, there have been four instances of horrifying deaths of sewer/septic tank workers in Uttar Pradesh. On 2 May, 2024, Shobran Yadav, 56, and his son Sushil Yadav, 28, died from suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Lucknow’s Wazirganj area. In another incident on 3 May 2024, two workers Nooni Mandal, 36 and Kokan Mandal aka Tapan Mandal, 40 were killed while cleaning the septic tank in a house in Noida, Sector 26. The two workers were residents of Malda district of West Bengal and lived in the slum area of Noida Sector 9. 

India 'not keen' on legally binding global treaty to reduce plastic production

By Rajiv Shah  Even as offering lip-service to the United Nations Environment Agency (UNEA) for the need to curb plastic production, the Government of India appears reluctant in reducing the production of plastic. A senior participant at the UNEP’s fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC-4), which took place in Ottawa in April last week, told a plastics pollution seminar that India, along with China and Russia, did not want any legally binding agreement for curbing plastic pollution.

'Fake encounter': 12 Adivasis killed being dubbed Maoists, says FACAM

Counterview Desk   The civil rights network* Forum Against Corporatization and Militarization (FACAM), even as condemn what it has called "fake encounter" of 12 Adivasi villagers in Gangaloor, has taken strong exception to they being presented by the authorities as Maoists.