SC directs centre to ensure food for all in drought-hit areas

The Supreme Court has asked the centre to release adequate foodgrains to drought-hit areas and ensure that no household is deprived of foodgrains even if they do not possess a ration card.

Supply of heavily-subsidised foodgrains to the poor under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) has been delayed by the states and the centre for failure to issue ration cards, which is a prerequisite for obtaining subsidised grain and PDF kerosene through fair price shops.

The states are Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and NV Ramana, which had delivered the first chapter of its judgment on a PIL over drought on 11 May, also came out with three more chapters to issue several directives to the affected states.

The apex court also asked the centre to release adequate funds under NREGA for drought-hit states and also release delayed payment dues to farmers under the scheme.

No household in a drought-affected area shall be denied foodgrains even if it does not possess a ration card, the court said, adding that any proof of residence or identity will be sufficient.

The order will clear the way for all rural households in drought-hit states to avail of 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month at a subsidised price of Rs1-3 per kg.

''We are very happy with the court's order. It is a historic verdict and we have got more than what we asked for. Hopefully, it will be implemented properly by the state governments and the centre,'' said Yogendra Yadav, political scientist and co-founder of Swaraj Abhiyan, the organization that filed a public interest litigation bringing the plight of the drought-hit millions to the court's attention.

The SC also asked states to give children in affected areas one egg or 200 gm of milk a day for six days a week under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme

The scheme should be run even during the summer vacation when schools are closed.