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10 crore unorganised labour 'still left out' of ration card purview: Census 2021 deferment

By Our Representative 

Even as welcoming the Supreme Court order to provide ration cards to eight crore migrant/ unorganised workers, the civil rights organisation Right to Food Campaign (RFC) has expressed the apprehension that an estimated about 10 crore of them would still be left out.
In a statement, RFC indicated, the Apex Court order only pertains to eight crore migrant/  unorganised sector workers who are registered on the eShram portal "but do not possess a ration card."
It said, "Due to not possessing ration cards, a large number of migrant/ unorganized labourers and their families have been deprived of access to subsidized food grains and other schemes under the National Food Security Act (NFSA)."
The civil rights group regretted, "The coverage under NFSA was to be updated as per the latest published census figures. However, as the census of 2021 has been postponed indefinitely and no date has been notified regarding the publication of the same, more than 10 crore people who should have been issued ration cards have been left out of the purview of the food security net."
The Supreme Court in its order dated April 20, 2023, in MA 94/2022 in ‘Re Problems and Miseries of Migrant Labourers’, gave directions to ensure food security for migrant workers/ unorganised sector workers.
The order said, 28.60 crore migrants/ unorganized workers are registered on the eShram portal, of which 20.63 crore are registered on the ration card data, directing all State/Union territory governments to issue ration cards under NFSA to the eight crore persons who are registered on the eShram portal but do not possess ration cards.
RFC demanded, all States and Union territories must immediately undertake the exercise, as directed by the Apex Court to issue ration cards to eight crore migrant/unorganised sector workers who are registered on eShram but do not possess a ration card.
At the same, it said, governments must universalise access to PDS for all migrant/unorganised sector workers and provide ration cards without putting in place multi-fold and complex inclusion/exclusion criteria including any income criteria.
According to RFC, "Adoption of complicated criteria ends up excluding people as they are often unable to furnish the necessary documentation including residence proof, aadhaar card, electricity bills, etc. These persons are among the most economically vulnerable sections of society and must be included under the ambit of the NFSA."

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