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Supreme Court’s Ruling on ONORC System for Migrant Workers

  • 30 Jun 2021
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, the Supreme Court directed all states and Union Territories (UT) to implement the One Nation, One Ration Card (ONORC) system by 31st July 2021.

  • The scheme allows migrant labourers covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to access food at any fair price shop with his or her ration card in any part of the country.

Key Points

  • Right to Food:
    • The fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution may be interpreted to include the right to live with human dignity, having the right to food and other basic necessities.
  • Importance of Migrants:
    • There are around 38 crore workers engaged in the unorganized sectors (National Statistics Office (NSO) data of 2017-2018).
    • 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.
  • Database:
    • Criticized the Labour Ministry for not completing the work of the Rs 45.39-crore National Database for Unorganised Workers (NDUW) portal to register and identify migrant workers.
      • The Court had ordered the Ministry to finalise the NDUW module way back in 2018.
    • Directed the States/UTs to register establishments and license contractors under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 and ensure that they provide the authorities complete details of the workers employed with them.
  • Redetermination of Beneficiaries under NFSA:
    • Directed the Centre “to undertake exercise under Section 9 of the National Food Security Act, 2013” to re-determine the total number of persons to be covered under Rural and Urban areas of the State.

ONORC System

  • Background:
    • Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, about 81 crore people are entitled to buy subsidised food grains - rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg, and coarse grains at Re 1/kg – from designated fair price shops.
    • However, NFSA beneficiaries were not able to access their PDS (Public Distribution System) benefits outside the jurisdiction of the specific fair price shop to which they have been assigned.
    • By introducing ONORC, the idea was to reform the PDS, which has been historically marred by inefficiency and leakages.
  • Launch:
    • ONORC was launched in August, 2019.
  • Aim:
    • The ONORC scheme is aimed at enabling migrant workers and their family members to buy subsidised ration from any fair price shop anywhere in the country under the NFSA.
    • To promote this reform in the PDS, the government has provided incentives to states and also set a precondition for additional borrowing by states during the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
  • Technology Used:
    • ONORC is based on technology that involves details of beneficiaries’ ration card, Aadhaar number, and electronic Points of Sale (ePoS). The system identifies a beneficiary through biometric authentication on ePoS devices at fair price shops.
    • The system runs with the support of two portals - Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) and Annavitran.
      • While the Annavitaran portal maintains a record of intra-state transactions - inter-district and intra-district - the IM-PDS portal records the inter-state transactions.
  • ONORC Coverage:
    • Till date, 32 states and UTs have joined the ONORC, covering about 69 crore NFSA beneficiaries.
    • Four states are yet to join the scheme - Assam, Chhattisgarh, Delhi and West Bengal.
    • While inter-state ration card portability is available in 32 states, the number of such transactions is much lower than that of intra-district and inter-district transactions.
  • Benefits:
    • Under the ONORC, the beneficiaries from one state can get their share of rations in other states where the ration card was originally issued.
    • ONORC will also give the beneficiaries the opportunity to opt for the dealer of their choice.
    • It will be particularly beneficial for women and other disadvantaged groups, given how social identity (caste, class and gender) and other contextual factors (including power relations) provide a strong backdrop in accessing PDS.
    • This will help achieve the target set under SDG (Sustainable development Goals) 2 (Ending hunger by 2030). Also, it will address the poor state of hunger in India, as highlighted by the Global Hunger Index, where India has been ranked 94 out of 107 countries.

Source: IE

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