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SC on support for migrant workers and ex gratia


The Supreme Court said that the government cannot “abdicate” its duties to feed migrant workers, especially during a pandemic, merely because they did not have ration cards.

The Supreme Court also pulled up the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for “failing to perform its duty” to recommend ex gratia assistance for families of those who lost their loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic.


GS-II: Social Justice (Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About SC ruling on support to Migrant Workers
  2. About the National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW)
  3. SC on NDMA and compensation to COVID-19 victims
  4. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)

About SC ruling on support to Migrant Workers

  • The Supreme Court’s ruling said that there is a large number of such migrants who do not possess any card due to their poverty and lack of education and the State cannot abdicate its duty towards such persons, especially in the wake of the pandemic where large numbers of migrant workers are not able to get jobs which may satisfy their basic needs.
  • The court set July 31 as the deadline for the Centre and the States to ensure their “bounden duty” that none among the estimated 38 crore migrant workers, who form one-fourth the country’s population, goes hungry during the pandemic.
  • The States/Union Territories have to make extra efforts to reach migrant labourers so that no migrant labourer is denied two meals a day according to the SC.
  • The Centre has to supply whatever additional quantity of food grains a State demanded.
  • The SC also ordered all the States to fully implement the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) by July 31 which allows migrant labourers covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to access food at any fair price shop with his or her ration card in any part of the country.
  • The Supreme Court’s ruling should result in the universalisation of rations to all migrant workers across India as long as the pandemic continues, as opposed to the government’s one-time relief measures.
  • The court slammed the Labour Ministry for its “unpardonable apathy” in not completing the work of the National Database for Unorganised Workers (NDUW) portal to register and identify migrant workers and unorganised labourers to ensure their rights, welfare and food security.

About the National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW)

  • The Ministry of Labour and Employment has said that the National Database of Unorganised Workers will maintain the database of the workers using their 12-digit Aadhaar number.
  • The database will enroll all unorganized workers including migrant labourers.
  • A database of all the workers will help the government in implementing social security schemes, providing jobs and giving other benefits to the unorganized labourers easily. It can also help in keeping a track of workers’ movement in situations like COVID-19.
  • The database will also help the workers to share details about his/her skills and get suitable work.
  • Workers will be encouraged to enroll on the website for the database and Common Service Centres can be used for this.
  • This step has come after the problems faced by migrant labourers in COVID-19 pandemic. Large numbers of labourers were out of work and did not have proper amenities. Thousands of such labourers even walked on roads to reach their homes.

Click Here to read more about Ration Cards in India and the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system

SC on NDMA and compensation to COVID-19 victims

  • The SC gave the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) six weeks to frame the guidelines for fixing the ex gratia meant for the families of those who lost their loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The court, however, left it to the “wisdom” of the NDMA to fix the amount of ex gratia.
  • The SC also held that the government could not excuse itself of its duty to pay ex gratia by saying that such payments would entail huge expenditure.
  • The SC mentioned the Disaster Management Act of 2005 and said the term ‘minimum standards of relief’ mentioned in the provision included payment of ex gratia.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)

  • National Disaster Management Authority, abbreviated as NDMA, is an apex Body of Government of India, with a mandate to lay down policies for disaster management.
  • NDMA was established through the Disaster Management Act enacted by the Government of India in 2005. Hence, NDMA is a Statutory body.
  • NDMA is responsible for framing policies, laying down guidelines and best-practices for coordinating with the State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) to ensure a holistic and distributed approach to disaster management.
  • It is headed by the Prime Minister of India and can have up to nine other members. Since 2014, there have been four other members.
  • The tenure of the members of the NDMA shall be five years.
  • The phrase disaster management is to be understood to mean ‘a continuous and integrated process of planning, organising, coordinating and implementing measures, which are necessary or expedient for prevention of danger or threat of any disaster, mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster or severity of its consequences, capacity building, preparedness to deal with any disaster, prompt response, assessing the severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster, evacuation, rescue, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction’.

Click Here to read more about the Disaster Management Act, 2005

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023