Migrant workers India
Migrant workers from other states wait outside a railway station to catch a train to return to their homes, in Mumbai, India, Friday, May 15, 2020. Image Credit: AP

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to ensure that food grains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) reach the last person.

A bench comprising justices M.R. Shah and Hima Kohli noted that nobody should go to sleep empty stomach is our culture. The top court was hearing a matter connected with the plight of migrant workers during the Covid pandemic.

Emphasising that it’s the government’s duty to ensure food grains under NFSA reach the last person, the bench said, “We are not saying that Centre is not doing anything, the Union of India has ensured food grains to people during Covid. At the same time, we have to see it continues.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan -- representing three social activists Anjali Bharadwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar - submitted that after 2011 census, the country’s population has increased and also the beneficiaries covered under the NFSA, as he insisted that law should be enforced effectively.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, contended that there are 813.5 million beneficiaries under NFSA.

Bhushan said India has slipped rapidly on the global hunger index, however the government claims the per capita income of people has increased in recent years.

Bhati further added that many people have been added to the beneficiaries list, and the 2011 census has not stopped the government. Citing state governments affidavits, Bhushan said they say that their quota of food grains has been exhausted.

The bench directed the Centre to submit a fresh chart with the number of migrant and unorganised sector workers registered on eShram portal. After hearing arguments, the bench scheduled the matter for further hearing on December 8.

Earlier, the Centre had told the apex court that the per capita income in India has increased in real terms by 33.4 per cent since the enactment of the NFSA in 2013. It further added that a large number of households have transitioned to the higher income group.

Previously, the apex court had asked the Centre to see that NFSA benefits are not limited by the 2011 census figures and more needy people should be covered under it.