The Supreme Court on Thursday gave orders to Haryana, UP, and Delhi to provide food and dry rations to stranded migrant labourers in the lockdown. The Court has asked the Center and the above governments to provide dry rations for Migrant Workers under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme or any other scheme using Public Distribution System. It also stated that community kitchens be opened up in popular areas in NCR for stranded migrant labourers to receive two meals a day.
The court stressed that ID cards will not be asked in providing ration. Additionally, the state governments of UP, Haryana and Delhi should provide adequate transport (in NCR) to stranded labourers who wish to go home.
The SC special order is a welcome move, considering that migrant labourers are some of the worst affected by lockdowns. Considering they are away from home and their places of work often shut down, they are left stranded in the city without much source of income. Last year, owing to the complete lack of government security provided to them, many migrant labourers walked extremely long distances to get back home from the cities. The order by the SC will hopefully put pressure on state governments to finally step in and provide securities and transport to migrant workers.
After last year’s experience, a centralised public safety response to the pandemic has been avoided so far. The prime minister is boasting about the size of election rallies. He is advising children to make sure their elders quarantine. However, policies related to the manufacturing and procurement of essential drugs and medical supplies have been set centrally, giving major multinational pharmaceutical giants a free run to set the terms of the bargain. In a major advance for the right-wing, neoliberal ideology of market-based competition, states such as Maharashtra have begun shopping for vaccines directly from foreign manufacturers. The central government has encouraged such bilateral deals at rates favouring the private cartels, abdicating its regulatory powers even during the crisis. It has ignored the uneven development among states, which positions some citizens at an advantage over others by an accident of birth.