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Plea seeks relief for migrant labour amid fresh lockdowns

Activists approach SC to ensure dry rations, transport as curbs hit workers again

An application was filed on Thursday seeking urgent intervention from the Supreme Court to ensure food security, dry rations, cash transfer and transport facility for migrant labourers at nominal rates even as the nation is reeling under a second wave of the pandemic.

The plea filed by activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, said the beginnings of chaos, panic and economic crisis which plagued labourers in the months of lockdown last year were raising their heads again.

“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,” the application said.

It said there is an overwhelming sense of opacity in governance and the food security programmes available were only for those with ration cards. The application said starvation for migrant labourers amid the spiralling health crisis was quickly dawning into reality.

The plea urged the court to direct the Centre to resume its scheme of providing dry rations under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme to all eight crore migrant labourers who are not covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) or State PDS cards and were identified under the said scheme last year.

“Migrant workers are again bearing the brunt of these policies and urgent intervention is required to address the following issues — loss of livelihood and means of income on account of the restrictions and lockdowns resulting in people being unable to pay for basic needs like food, rent, etc, and lack of proper arrangement for safe and free travel back to their hometowns and villages when lockdowns are announced,” the application said.

Mr. Bhushan argued that “new restrictions and curfews/lockdowns have caused immense distress in the lives of the economically vulnerable sections of society, especially migrant workers”.

Across several States, migrant workers, having lost their means of livelihood on account of the restrictions imposed, were unable to sustain themselves and there was largescale distress migration back to their hometowns.

“No proper relief measures to mitigate the economic hardships being faced by migrant workers have been announced when the lockdowns are put in place leading to a precarious situation. The loss of livelihood and means of income is causing food insecurity among migrant workers and their families,” the plea said.

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