Chief secretaries of ten drought affected states have been asked to explain the steps taken for setting up of food commissions and implementation of the National Food Security Act.
Hearing a contempt petition filed by Swaraj Abhiyan alleging subversion of Supreme Court’s orders in providing relief to the drought affected, the apex court has issued notices to chief secretaries of ten states to explain the non-implementation of its orders.
A bench comprising Justices Madan Lokur and N.V. Ramana directed the chief secretaries to submit affidavits detailing how their respective governments had abided by the court orders. The Supreme Court has directed the chief secretaries to file affidavits explaining the steps taken for implementation of its order, with regard to setting up of state food commissions, district grievance redressal officers and implementation of the National Food Security Act.
The court also directed the chief secretaries of the states of drought affected states, including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, to explain if the directions of the court for giving supplemental nutrition through eggs or milk had been carried out in their states and whether mid-day meal were served during summer vacation of 2016, Swaraj Abhiyan said in a statement.
The apex court had in its historic May 2016 order pulled up the Centre and the states for showing “lack of will” in tackling drought and saving lives. On the petition filed by Swaraj Abhiyan it had issued several directions but when the governments did not comply, the organisation filed a contempt petition in September.
Arguing for Swaraj Abhiyan, its president and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan charged that the Centre had not followed the court orders to provide subsidised foodgrain to all drought affected population by insisting on charging high price to the states. Hearing this, the court lamented that the governments had abdicated their legal responsibility under the National Food Security Act which was enacted by the parliament.
Bhushan had also claimed that only 46% of the payment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) had taken place within the stipulated period of 15 days after work and that the legal requirement of compensation for delayed payment under MNREGA had been fulfilled in just 3% of the cases.
In light of this, the apex court asked if any safeguards were available to ensure that money spent on MNREGA was reaching the targeted population. It also directed the Centre to file an affidavit within four weeks giving details of the steps taken for implementation of the MNREGA scheme, mentioning how person days are computed between Centre and states.
The Centre has also been told to submit details on delay in payment of wages, delay in payment of compensation, reduction in person days and functioning of the Central Employment Guarantee Council and the State Employment Guarantee Council. Also, it has been told to include in its affidavit all aspects of social audit in terms of the Act and the audit rules of 2011 with special consideration to the report of the joint task force which had been established by the Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
Further, Bhushan had stated that none of the states had revised their mid-day meal menu despite clear directions by the apex court and that five states had not extended the scheme during the summer vacation of 2016 as per the apex court’s order.
Another important issue raised by Bhushan pertained to the states failing to provide information on distribution of crop loss compensation and restructuring of crop loans not taking place in accordance with the guidelines of the Reserve Bank of India.
Lauding the court order in the matter, Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav hoped that “this case will result not just in relief to millions of drought affected farmers, but also in setting up of some long-term mechanism for redressal of farmer’s sufferings”.
(With PTI inputs)