The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to take a decision on whether it would procure additional foodgrains from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for migrant workers and other needy persons without ration cards.
The High Court had passed the direction last Friday, after the state government informed it that it has not yet taken a decision on the directive issued by the Centre allowing all states to increase their requirement of foodgrains under Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) for distribution outside the targeted public distribution system.
A single-judge bench of Justice Suresh C Gupte heard, through videoconference, a plea by Pune-based social activist and lawyer Vanita Chavan seeking supply of essentials to poor, migrants and tribals without ration cards during the lockdown.
Chavan, in a plea filed through advocate Harshad Bhadbhade, stated that public distributions shops or ration shops in the state are not distributing foodgrains in effective manner and sought direction to the state government to make them available even for those persons without ration cards, including migrant workers and tribals.
Similar provisions should be given free of cost to migrants who do not have money to buy food due to the lockdown, and governments in Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Telangana have taken initiatives to provide food grains without ration cards, the plea stated.
Government Pleader Priyabhushan Kakade and Additional Government Pleader Bhushan Samant, representing the state government, informed the court that it has not yet taken a decision on Centre’s directive allowing all states and union territories to life requirement and take additional quantity of foodgrains from FCI for distributing them to persons who are not covered under the National Food Security Act ( NFSA).
After hearing submissions, Justice Gupte noted, “The response from the state indicates that it has not applied its mind to the directive issued by Union Government to Food Secretaries…It is possible for the state to act under the advisory for the needs of wandering tribes and other people stranded within the state, who do not hold ration cards and do not come under NFSA categories.”
The court added: “Considering the peculiar situation in the state as a result of COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown, it is imperative for the state to take a decision in this behalf. It must communicate such a decision to the Court by the next date.”
Seeking response from the state, the bench has posted for further hearing on May 12.
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