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Implement ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ in WB Without Delay: SC

A bench of Justices said no excuse will be considered and the state must implement the scheme without any delay.

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SC asks Bengal to implement ‘One Nation One Ration’ scheme without delay.
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The Supreme Court on Friday, 11 June, asked the West Bengal government to immediately implement the ‘one nation, one ration card’ scheme.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah said, “No excuse will be considered and the state must implement the scheme after its counsel submitted that there were Aadhaar seeding issues.”

“You cannot cite one or the other problem. This is for migrant workers.”
The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah

The top court was hearing the suo motu case addressing the problems and miseries of migrant workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that there were nearly 2.8 crore migrants without ration cards and they were facing serious difficulties as they were not be covered under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana.

The Bench noted that the scheme had been extended till November, but Dave said the scheme will benefit only those who have ration cards.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta pointed out that 80 crore beneficiaries had been identified under the Garib Kalyan scheme.

As the bench asked what scheme will cover the people who don't have ration cards, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati replied that “the latitude has been left to the states and it is for the states to have schemes for those who do not have ration cards”.

The Bench noted that the Centre was ready to distribute food grains and it has to see what mechanism can be adopted. Dave, however, argued that the Centre is trying to pass the burden on states.

The Bench said that there are states that don’t have such schemes and can the Garib Kalyan scheme be temporarily extended to include those who don’t have ration cards.

To this, Mehta said that the Centre can discuss with the secretaries concerned in the respective states and come back (with an answer) after a week.

“Nobody is leaving them to die. There are schemes to help them,”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta
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During the hearing, the counsel for the Maharashtra and Punjab governments informed the court that they follow the one nation one ration card scheme. At this stage, the West Bengal government counsel submitted that the state had not implemented the scheme yet. The Bench then said that it must implement it when the others have.

The top court asked the states to file a short response in the matter and reserved the judgment.

The court also expressed dissatisfaction over the delay in the development of software by Centre for registration of unorganised workers.

“You initiated it in August 2020, and it is still not over,” the Bench said, adding that the Centre is not conducting any survey but only creating a module so that data can be fed into the mechanism.

Mehta replied that the court's concerns are right and he will take instructions in the matter.

At this, the bench said that this can't be left to bureaucracy anymore.

“Your officers have done nothing. Just because your directors etc don’t have time, this can’t be put on hold forever.”
The Bench of Justice - Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah
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Mehta requested the court not to pass any order on the extension of the scheme, as it may have financial ramifications. The bench responded that it understands the matter.

The top court was hearing an application by activists Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj, and Jagdeep Chhokar, seeking directions to ensure that migrant workers are not deprived of ration and food security, and they should also be able to travel back to their homes at nominal cost.

(Published in an arrangement with IANS.)

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