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SC to consider hearing plea seeking welfare measures for migrant workers during COVID wave

New Delhi: On Wednesday, the Supreme Court said it would consider listing for hearing the fresh plea of activists seeking implementation of an earlier order on ensuring food security and other welfare measures for migrant workers who are again in distress in the third COVID-19 wave triggered by omicron variant and consequential curbs imposed in parts of the country.

“Let me see”, Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana told advocate Prashant Bhushan, who sought an urgent hearing on an interim application filed by three activists, Anjali Bharadwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar, in a 2020 suo-moto case.

This is the “food for the migrant labourers” matter. The directions were issued by this court in the suo-moto petition relating to the delivery of dry ration, as well as the community kitchen etc. Ultimately, seven months have elapsed and no directions have yet been implemented, and now again because of the Omicron and the lockdown like curbs, the migrant labourers are facing a severe crisis, Bhushan argued.

The activists, in the fresh plea, have sought directions to the Centre to file a status report with respect to compliance with the directions given in the judgment delivered in June last year.

The plea seeks compliance with the direction by which the authorities were asked to undertake an exercise under the National Food Security Act, 2013 to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered under the free ration scheme.

It has sought details of food grains provided by the Centre to the states for implementing the food schemes for migrant workers.

The top court, on June 29 last year, had issued a slew of directions to authorities on a plea of the activists seeking welfare measures for migrant workers and had ordered states and Union Territories (UTs) to frame schemes for providing free dry ration to them till the pandemic lasts, while the Centre will have to allocate additional food grains.

The bench had also termed as unpardonable the Centre’s apathy and lackadaisical attitude towards creating National Database for Unorganised Workers (NDUW) and ordered its commencement by July 31, last year so that all migrant workers are registered and welfare measures extended to them during COVID distress.

The verdict had come on the plea of the activists seeking directions to the Centre and states to ensure food security, cash transfers and other welfare measures for migrant workers who faced distress again due to curfews and lockdowns in various parts of the country during the second wave of COVID-19.

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