The Supreme Court on Tuesday told states and Union territories to provide ration cards within two months to eight crore migrant workers registered on the eShram portal but not covered under the National Food Security Act, PTI reported.

The portal, maintained by the Union labour ministry, is a centralised database of all unorganised workers. It has 28.6 crore persons in its database, of whom 20.63 crore can avail ration cards, The Hindu reported.

A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Ahsanuddin Amanullah also noted on Tuesday that states and Union territories had failed to comply with the top court’s order in 2023 that had given them three months to provide migrant workers with ration cards.

The court was hearing a petition moved by activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar who said that rations cards must be given to migrant workers irrespective of the quota of ration under the National Food Security Act.

The Act legally entitles up to two-thirds of the population to receive subsidised foodgrains under the Targeted Public Distribution System.

Advocates Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’Souza, representing the petitioners, said that the food security law’s coverage continued to be decided on the basis of the 2011 Census even though the population of the country has increased.

This has led to more than 10 crore individuals being excluded from the Act, the counsel said.

The petitioners added that the number of individuals availing ration under the National Food Security Act should be based on the latest Census, which is yet to be undertaken.

The counsel said that many states had exhausted their quota of ration card beneficiaries and were not able to issue new cards as the coverage under the Act had not been increased, according to PTI.

Responding to the petition, the Supreme Court said that impediments such as updating the KYC, or Know Your Customer, requirements of 80 crore ration card-holders were causing unnecessary delays in implementing the order.

The court said that ration cards must be issued irrespective of the quotas set under the National Food Security Act.

In August 2021, the e-Shram portal was created with the mandate of registering over 38 crore unorganised workers in the country to create an Aadhar-seeded National Database of Unorganised Workers.

The portal aims to bridge the gap in unorganised workers’ access to social welfare and employment benefits by issuing an e-Shram card (or Shramik card) upon registration