Plea seeks directions to Centre for movement of requisite labour across States to be available in time for harvest of rabi crops

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stressed the urgent need to ensure that farmers function without hiccups on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An apex court Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana suggested to the Centre to take into consideration the views of an IIM Bangalore faculty member, Trilochan Sastry, before issuing further guidelines to ease the functioning of the agricultural sector in these difficult times.

The Bench acknowledged reports about measures taken by the government to address labour shortage in the farming sector.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted in the hearing, held through videoconferencing, that the Centre was “taking constant measures to ease the situation.”

Mr. Sastry, who is also the founder-secretary of the Centre for Collective Development and a member of the Association for Democratic Reforms, had approached the Supreme Court for issuance of directions to the Centre to enable immediate movement of requisite labour across districts/States to be available in time for harvest of rabi crops and sowing of kharif crops at various locations.

Logistical bottlenecks

His petition had sought directions to the government to take steps to prevent further loss of food grains, vegetables and fruits by identification of logistical bottlenecks in their transit, including dissemination of government guidelines to authorities and police officers on the ground.

Senior advocate Nikhil Nayyar, for Mr. Sastry, argued that a total of 662.13 lakh hectares was reported as sown with various rabi crops in the 2019-20 season — to be harvested in April/May 2020. But migrant labour from cities — who typically work as farm labourers in rural areas during the rabi harvesting season — have not been allowed to get to their destinations, thereby creating a gruelling shortage of labour.

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