There should be food for everyone, gov’t’s duty to ensure food grains reach the last man: SC

‘It is our culture to make sure no one goes to sleep empty stomach,’ the Supreme Court said on Tuesday and asked the federal government to make sure foodgrains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) get to everyone. The bench of Justices M R Shah and Hima Kohli directed the Centre to submit a fresh chart with the number of migrants and unorganized workers registered.

It’s the government’s job to make sure the NFSA foodgrains get to the last man. The Union of India has provided foodgrains to people during Covid, we’re not saying that Centre doesn’t do anything. However, we have to make sure it keeps going. “It’s our culture to make sure nobody goes to bed empty-handed,” the bench said.

During the Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, it heard a public interest case on its own.

The number of beneficiaries under the NFSA has increased since the 2011 census, according to lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who is representing Anjali Bharadwaj, Harsh Mander, and Jagdeep Chhokar.

If the law isn’t enforced effectively, many eligible and needy beneficiaries will miss out on the benefits.

Despite government claims, Bhushan said India’s ranking in the global hunger index has slipped rapidly in recent years.

In her defense, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati said 81.35 crore people benefit from the NFSA, which is a lot for an Indian country.

ASG says the government hasn’t stopped adding people to the growing list of beneficiaries despite the 2011 census.

Bhushan said 14 states have filed affidavits saying their grain quotas have been used up.

December 8 is the date for a resumed hearing.

A top court had earlier asked the Centre to make sure 2011 census figures don’t limit the NFSA benefits¬†and to include more needy people under the Act, calling food a fundamental right under Article 21.

Indian per capita income has increased by 33.4% since the National Food Security Act (NFSA) was passed in 2013, the Centre had earlier told the Supreme Court, saying a lot of households have moved up the income ladder.

Over the last eight years, the per capita income of the Indian population has increased by 33.4% in real terms. People’s per capita incomes are up, so a lot of households have moved up, and they’re not as vulnerable as they were in 2013-14,” the Centre says in an affidavit.

As of September 10, 2013, the government notified the National Food Security Act 2013 to ensure people have access to adequate quantities of quality food at affordable prices to live a dignified life.

Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) covers up to 75 percent of rural people and 50 percent of urban people.

A top court said in July that migrant workers play a very important role in building the country, and their rights can’t be ignored, and asked the Centre to devise a way to feed them without ration cards.

According to the report, migrant workers are dying from hunger despite development, so modalities need to be set up to ensure as many of them as possible get rations.

On a plea from the three activists seeking welfare measures for migrant workers, the top court ordered states and union territories (UTs) to frame plans to provide free dry rations to them until the pandemic ends. The Center was also asked to allocate more foodgrains.

Additionally, it told the states and UTs to register all establishments, license all contractors, and make sure the contractors are complying with the statutory duty to provide the info about migrant workers.

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