New Delhi: Even as the Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre, all states and Union Territories to implement provisions of the Food Security Act, attorney general K.K. Venugopal cautioned the court about issuing directions by expanding the scope of the petition relating to drought relief.
A bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and N.V. Ramana is monitoring the implementation of various directions regarding relief measures issued to 10 states affected by drought following a petition filed by Swaraj Abhiyan.
The bench said that though the petition is confined to 10 drought affected states, it was directing the Centre, all states and UTs to implement the provisions of Food Security Act as it was a beneficial legislation meant for the entire country. The AG assured the court that the law would be implemented across the country.
When counsel Prashant Bhushan complained about delay in payment of wages and compensation to labourers under the MNREGA, Justice Madan Lokur faulted the Centre by pointing out that fund transfer to the beneficiaries was only to the extent of 54.5 per cent.
Mr Bhushan had pointed out that states had not filled up the Food Security Commissions as provided under the Food Security Act and wages are not being paid to workers on time.
The AG told the bench that the government was doing its best to fill the gaps in the system and “miracles can’t be achieved overnight.”
He said, “It is easy to find fault, but the number of workers involved are eight to ten crore and payments have to reach 84,000 bank branches, which are mostly in rural areas. Many branches did not have Internet facility and therefore payments are being made through post offices. We are monitoring it on a day-to-day basis... Such an enormous task needs time. Governance is not that easy as we have 100 various other tasks on hand. India is progressing. Have faith in us (government), give us six months time to implement the scheme fully.”
Justice Lokur conceded that the government had been doing good work in this regard. He said, “We are not asking for miracles. We only point out that there are deficiencies.”
In May last, the Supreme Court ordered state governments not to hide behind the “smokescreen of lack of funds” and provide wide-ranging relief for the drought-affected people in 12 states and to implement the national Food Security Act in all states.
The directions issued by the court included mid-day meals during summer vacation, addition of egg or milk to the mid-day meal menu, universalisation of food-grain ration, adequate and timely release of funds for MNREGA and implementation of crop loss compensation, agricultural loan restructuring and provision for cattle fodder.
The court had laid down new principles for declaration of drought. It expressed surprise that implementation of a law enacted by Parliament, the NFS Act, had been left to the whims and fancies of state governments, and that it has taken Gujarat more than two years to implement it while Uttar Pradesh has implemented it partially. “This is rather strange. A state government, by delaying implementation of a law passed by the Parliament and assented to by the President of India, is effectively refusing to implement it and Parliament is left a mute spectator,” the bench said.