Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.
In its final judgement aimed at providing relief to the drought-affected people of India, the Supreme Court directed the Centre and the states to implement the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the National Food Security Act.
In a bid to provide relief to each household in the drought-affected areas of the country, the apex court directed the central government to release funds to the states for providing jobs and timely payment under MGNREGA. If states fail to provide timely payment to the workers, the workforce should be compensated as per the rule, the Supreme Court ruled.
The National Food Security Act (NFS) should be implemented regardless of any category in the drought-affected regions, the apex court said. The directive clearly states that no household will be denied their share of the ration.
The Supreme Court has also asked state governments to put in place a grievance redressal system at the state level as well as the district level to deal with non-supply of foodgrains in the absence of ration cards.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre to prepare a national disaster plan for drought.
The apex court directed that the Centre should timely release MGNREGA funds so that wage payment to workers was not delayed.
In its observation, the apex court noted that the pending wage bill of the previous year was only paid after the issue was raised while hearing the petition filed by Delhi-based non-profit Swaraj Abhiyan.
It said that the Union government must ensure timely compensation of delayed wages to the rural workforce.
The Supreme Court also directed the Centre to constitute the Central Employment Guarantee Council (EGC), an advisory body, which will monitor and review MGNREGA from time to time within 60-day of this judgement. It also directed the state governments to constitute state-level EGCs within 45 days.
The apex court observed that without EGC at both the central as well as state levels, MGNREGA cannot be monitored and reviewed.
The Supreme Court asked the state governments to put in place a grievance redressal system at the state and the district levels with an entitlement to deal with non-supply of foodgrains in the absence of ration cards within a month.
Each state should constitute a food commission within two months to monitor and review its implementation, it added.
The drought-affected states should provide monthly entitlement of foodgrains regardless of whether they fall in the category of priority households or not to the people.
The apex court directed Bihar, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to make adequate arrangement for milk, eggs and other nutritional food in mid-day meals for children for five days a week or at least three days a week.