The Centre has told the Supreme Court that AAP government’s claim regarding the launch of ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ (ONORC) plan is misleading as a large number of migrants workers are unable to take the benefit of subsidised National Food Security Act (NFSA) foodgrains in Delhi as there is no full implementation.
In its affidavit filed before the top court, the Union government said the AAP government has implemented one nation-one ration card plan only in circle 63 Seemapuri.
“It is submitted that the claim of GNCTD regarding launch of One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) plan in NCT of Delhi is misleading, as they claim to have implemented it only in circle 63 Seemapuri. Only a handful of transactions conducted in single circle with about 42 ePoS machines cannot be considered as implementation of ONORC.
“Further, unless the national portability transactions are rolled out formally in all the Fair Price Shops of all Circles of NCT Delhi, in which more than 2000 Electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) machines have been supplied and waiting for operation, it cannot be considered as implementation of ONORC,” the affidavit stated.
The Centre said that a very large number of inter-state migrants are present all across Delhi who do not have access to their NFSA foodgrains, being away from their own villages/hometowns, are not able to take the benefit of their quota of subsidised foodgrains as there is no full implementation of ONORC.
The onus of implementing the ONORC plan was on states, it said.
It said that while most states were implementing the ONORC, four of them Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and West Bengal have not yet integrated into the scheme and it would depend on their technical readiness to implement the portability of ration cards.
The Centre said that it has extended the scheme for food grains for all the beneficiaries, who are not covered under NFSA and to whom ration cards have been issued by the State Governments under their own scheme at the rate of 5 kg per person per month.
“It is submitted that the Union of India is committed to make sufficient foodgrains available to the States at highly subsidised prices under the above schemes, to tide over the difficulty of food security during the current crisis, however, the responsibility of identification and distribution to the beneficiaries lies with the States/UTs.
“All the States/UTs have been advised through the communications dated May 20, 2021 and May 25, 2021, to avail their requirements of foodgrains through the mentioned schemes, to provide food grains to those who are not covered under the NFSA including migrants/ stranded migrants, as per locally assessed requirements,” the affidavit said.
In a message to the states and UTs, the top court on June 11 had said they must implement the ONORC scheme as it allows migrant workers to get ration at the place of their work in other states as well where their ration cards are not registered.
The top court had also taken strong note of the delay in development of a software meant to register workers of unorganized sector to create a national database and posed queries to the Centre as to how the benefit of free food grain till November this year under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna’ would reach to migrant labourers having no ration cards.
A vacation bench comprising justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah had reserved its verdict on a fresh application filed by activists – Anjali Bharadwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar in the pending suo motu case of 2020 on the issue of problems faced by migrant workers due to curbs clamped in country amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
The bench had asked the Centre, the petitioner activists and the states to file written notes in the matter.
The activists have sought directions to the Centre and states to ensure food security, cash transfers, transport facilities and other welfare measures for the migrant workers on grounds that they are in dire need for help as the crisis is bigger this time.
In May last year, the top court had taken suo motu cognizance of problems and miseries of migrant labourers and had passed a slew of directions, including asking the states not to charge fare from migrant workers and provide them food for free till they board trains or buses.
On May 24 this year, the top court had termed as “very slow” the process of registration of unorganised workers and had directed the authorities to provide dry ration and make operational community kitchens for migrant workers stranded throughout the country amid COVID-19 pandemic.
Referring to the resurgence of COVID-19 infections and consequent curbs, the activists, in their plea, said, the problems and miseries faced by migrant workers during the lockdown in 2020 have persisted over the past year due to the continued economic distress and now have got aggravated on account of fresh restrictions, curfews and lockdowns being imposed in many states to control the spread of COVID.