The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed all state governments to provide dry ration to sex workers in adequate amount and with uniformity.
A bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi asked the states to seek help from the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and legal services authorities in identifying sex workers and provide them succour amid the ongoing pandemic.
The top court also queried the Uttar Pradesh government counsel on the delay in identifying sex workers and insisted that it is a question of somebody's survival.
The bench told the UP counsel if it fails to identify sex workers after four weeks then this shows its capability. "You tell us about the number of identified persons," said the bench.
The bench reiterated that we are a welfare state and there should not be any delay.
Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, amicus curiae in the matter, citing the affidavit filed by Uttar Pradesh, submitted that the state is making efforts to give rations to sex workers without disclosing their identity and nearly 27,000 sex workers are registered by NACO in UP, in accordance with the September 29 order, of the top court, where it asked the states to give them dry rations.
The UP-government counsel submitted before the bench that they are in the process of identifying sex workers and those identified already have ration cards and are being provided rations.
Bhushan also brought the court's attention to affidavits filed by Maharashtra, Assam and Nagaland. For Maharashtra, he said eight district collectors out of 36 districts have given reports on distribution of dry rations. The bench observed that there no uniformity in distribution.
The bench asked Maharashtra government counsel the information shared shows there is no uniformity in distribution.
Bhushan said affidavit filed by Assam, NACO has identified around 11,000 sex workers in 19 districts and Nagaland has identified 5,315 sex workers. The counsel for Nagaland said they are facing some technical difficulty in distribution. The bench said in the backdrop of fully computerised system there should not be any delay.
"If you will take refuge under computerisation, it is going to take a year," noted the bench, insisting that there should not be any delay.
Senior advocate Anand Grover, representing an applicant, said some states have not shared data about number of sex workers and also about the rations provided to them.
The observation from the bench came during the hearing of an application by NGO Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee which highlighted the destitution faced by sex workers amid the pandemic, and sought relief measures for over nine lakh female and transgender sex workers across India.
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