India's Supreme Court upholds the right to food for migrant workers as well

Court ruling follows a petition on behalf of unemployed migrants who could not return to their villages due to the pandemic. The court calls on local governments to ensure food security for everyone in the country. For Jesuit clergyman, Father Jothi, the lack of papers should not be used to let those most in need go hungry.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – India’s Supreme Court has ruled that the Right to Life under Article 21 of India’s constitution covers the right to food, and that all states and governments have a duty to ensure food security for the poor.

The court decision follows a petition by three activists – Anjali Bharadwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar – who sought welfare measures for migrant workers who faced difficulties due to curfews and lockdowns during the new wave of COVID-19.

In its 80-page ruling, the Supreme Court cites data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) noting that 380 million people work in India’s informal economy and that their food security is a duty that the government must fulfil.

The “number of persons in the unorganized sector is more than 1/4th population of the entire country,” the document reads. “These unorganized workers did not have any permanent source of employment and have engaged themselves in small time vocations and occupations at various places away from their native places. Contributions of these labourers towards different projects, industries, make considerable additions in the economic development of the country.”

Nevertheless, during the pandemic migrant workers were largely excluded from local government aid because they lacked the necessary papers. Hence, the Supreme Court calls for action to guarantee them the right to food.

Father Irudya Jothi SJ, director of the Udayani (Awakening), a Kolkata-based advocacy group, and convenor of the Right to Food and Work’ campaign in West Bengal, is happy about the court decision.

“I, along with Right To Food Campaign India, welcome Supreme Court’s directive to give rations to migrant workers and revise the state-wise coverage of food security net under the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA),” he told AsiaNews.

“We will extensively push for effective implementation of these directives with state governments and will strengthen the campaign on the ground,” ensuring that they are implemented in individual Indian states.

“We have always said that there was universal coverage in access to food in this resource-rich land” and called for an improvement “in food quality with the addition of more nutrients.”

“We shall oppose every attempt to link the Aadhar card with the ration card,” or tie “biometrics to getting rations.” Suck a linkage “will bring in a lot of problems and the most deserving will be deprived again.”


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