The process of registration of migrant workers is “very slow” and it must be expedited so that benefit of various schemes can be extended to them amid the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Supreme Court. It also expressed dissatisfaction with the Centre’s efforts as well as the states, on the issue of registration of unorganized workers.
A bench of justices, Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah said the benefit of schemes meant for the migrant workers can be extended after they are identified and registered by authorities. “The process of registration is very slow. We are not happy with the efforts undertaken by the Centre and States on registration of unorganized workers,” the bench said. “The government must ensure that benefit of schemes reach the beneficiaries, including migrant workers, and the process must be monitored and supervised.
The apex court was hearing an application filed by three activists who have sought directions to the Centre and states to ensure food security, cash transfers, transport facilities and other welfare measures for migrant workers who are facing distress due to the curbs clamped in several parts of the country amid the pandemic. The top court said that it had passed directions regarding registration of migrant workers in 2020.
For extending the benefits of the scheme, the bench said authorities must complete the process of registration and the government should also reach to these workers to complete it expeditiously. “We want this process to be completed. We also want that all organized workers be registered. We will ask the government to speed up the process.”
The court also noted that it is a difficult task, but has to be achieved. “Our main concern is that benefits meant for them must reach them.” The bench told the counsel appearing for Gujarat that if the contractors and employers are not cooperating in the process of registration of workers then the state government may consider cancelling their licences. “On paper, we have everything which says that government has spent thousands of crores on this, but the issue is whether it is reaching the concerned persons. You have to monitor and supervise it.”
The bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, that the apex court had in 2018 dealt with another matter in which the Ministry of Labour and Employment had said that it has started a national database of unorganized workers. “This registration should be completed and it should be on all-India basis,” the bench said. “The benefit of all schemes can be extended only when they are registered.”
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the applicants, highlighted that an unfortunate fact emerges from the affidavits of states and also the Centre that they have not re-started the Atma Nirbhar Bharat scheme which they had started last year. He said dry ration must be provided to the migrant workers. The bench said it would ask the states to file better affidavits indicating all the steps taken by them, including on the issue of registration of workers.