Supreme Court to hear govt lapse on migrants' food, livelihood crises
The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to examine a complaint that lakhs of migrant workers were facing grave food and livelihood crises amid the pandemic because of the government’s alleged failure to provide any relief despite the court’s directions seven months ago.
On June 21 last year, the court had taken suo motu cognisance of the plight of migrants and passed directions to the Centre and the states to provide relief.
A bench of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and Justices A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli on Wednesday agreed to consider the plea of advocate Prashant Bhushan for early listing of the joint application moved by civil liberties and RTI activists Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj and Jagdeep S. Chhokar.
The petitioners have highlighted the alleged failure of the Centre and the states to comply with the directions although Covid continued to play havoc with life, livelihood and health.
According to the applicants, the pandemic over the past two years has deepened economic distress and severely impacted food intake, especially among the vulnerable sections, leading to hunger and malnutrition as documented by multiple studies.
The petitioners referred to the findings of the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy that stated that the proportion of households where more than one person is employed has fallen from nearly 35 per cent in 2016 to about 24 per cent in 2021. Households where only one person is employed has risen from 59 per cent in 2016 to 68 per cent in the first 11 months of 2021.
The petitioners cited an article on an Oxfam report that said that the income of 84 per cent households had fallen in 2021 while the number of billionaires grew. The report highlighted that more than 4.6 crore Indians were estimated to have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020, nearly half of the global new poor according to the United Nations.
The report also drew attention to rising gender inequality with women collectively losing Rs 59.11 lakh crore in earnings in 2020 and 1.3 crore fewer women in work than in 2019.
“The lack of compliance with the directions of this Hon’ble Court in a matter that involves the lives and livelihood of lakhs of migrant labourers in the country is even more concerning as the country is once again facing rising number of Covid cases and various state governments have put in place lockdowns, restrictions and curfews thereby exacerbating the economic distress and hardships of migrant workers most of whom are in the unorganised sector and therefore have no social or financial security net to fall back on, and are once again facing loss of livelihood, uncertainty and hunger,” the petition said.
“The reliefs granted by this Hon’ble Court were in the specific context of the pandemic and aimed at ensuring basic modicum of food security for economically vulnerable persons during this time of unprecedented hardship. It is therefore important that this Hon’ble Court monitors the compliance with its orders,” the application added.