Gangtok: A day after Sikkim government implemented ‘One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC)’ in the state, opposition leaders have sharply reacted to scheme saying it will violate Article 371F of the Indian Constitution and open migrant settlements in the state.
Article 371F of the Constitution of India provides special status to the Himalayan state of Sikkim.
The ONORC scheme is aimed at enabling migrant workers and their family members to buy subsidised ration from any fair price shop anywhere in India under the National Food Security Act, 2013.
The flagship programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is aimed at the wellbeing of BPL families and migrant workers using their existing Ration Card with Aadhaar authentication on the electronic point of sale (e-POS) devices available in all fair price shops (FPS).
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had directed all states and Union territories to implement the system, which allows for inter- and intra-state portability, by July 31.
On Wednesday, Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Golay launched the scheme along with fair price shops (FPS) automation through e-PoS devices at Samman Bhawan in state capital Gangtok.
However, opposition leaders in Sikkim have not taken the implementation of the scheme in their stride. Here’s what some of them had to say about ONORC:
‘Today, we are giving ration cards, tomorrow migrants will represent us’
According to SIBLAC convener Tseten Tashi Bhutia, Sikkim has no data on migrant workers. “In Sikkim, there are illegal document holders, will they not pose a threat to any breach in national security?” asked Bhutia, adding: “Sikkim is a border state. With ONORC, you are allowing them to settle in Sikkim. Today, we are giving ration cards, tomorrow it could be residential certificates, then they will become representatives here.”
Quoting Union home minister Amit Shah’s stand on Article 371F being a “special provision”, Bhutia said, “Whatever laws are passed in Parliament, they are not necessary to be implemented in Sikkim. This was the stand of home minister Amit Shah. Sikkim has special provisions, hence there is seat reservation in the Assembly based on community and Dharma. We are under special provision; this is an attack and political parties should know this.”
Talking about the recent labour registration act, the SIBLAC convener said: “There are 70,000 migrant labours, say government data. So, will the One Nation One Ration Card be applicable for our local labourers? The labour department is saying COI and Sikkim Subject holders among the labourers need not follow the registration. The policy is definitely not very clear.”
The government of India has sanctioned Rs 36,000 crore for the migrant labourers and their families, said Bhuta. “The migrant workers, wherever they are, can benefit, using the ration cards, to avail of the facility. Sikkim doesn’t have facts and figures on the migrant workers for whom it will be implemented,” added Bhutia.
‘One Nation One Ration Card will change the demography of Sikkim’
Opposition Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) spokesperson MK Subba is of the view that the ruling Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) should have called for an all-party meeting, considering the importance of the issue.
“They could have called an emergency session of the Assembly. It has a cascading effect as it violates the special provisions of Article 371F which gives Sikkim regional autonomy. Food minister Arun Upreti has not been able to give a clarification. His stand on the ONORC has been as directed by the Supreme Court of India and the Central government,” Subba said.
The National Food security Act has provisions for public distribution system through which rice and maize are given, said Subba. “But through ONORC, immigrant labourers from West Bengal or Bihar will get ration. There is no clarity on how they can avail — half here and half in their home state?” he asked.
“When migrant labourers get such facilities, they are going to settle in Sikkim. Later, it will change the demography, they will start getting rights in mainstream politics. It is going to hamper the demography of Sikkim with violation of Article 371F,” he said.
Our government has not been able to place this with the government of India, said Subba. “They are doing it in the pan-India level, but Sikkim has special status where they can keep their stand for Inner Line Permit, Sikkim is not exempted from Citizenship Amendment Act. There should have been a discussion, which is wrong,” the SDF spokesperson added.
Commenting on the SKM manifesto and their agenda on local protection, Subba said: “Since they came to power, they are trying to destroy the local protection act which has been given by the Constitution of India. They have left our identity to be compromised.”
‘One Nation One Ration Card implemented only to lick the boots of Central leaders’
Former Sikkim Congress president Bharat Basnet said how BJP-ruled states have not implemented the One Nation One Ration Card scheme but the SKM government was in a hurry to implement it in Sikkim. “It is clearly against their electoral stand of SKM that 371F will not be weakened. The reason to it is money and to please the Central leaders in Delhi. It is boot licking,” he said.
It is laying precedence for uniform civil code, said Basnet. “The BJP government has already tried that with the beef ban which was opposed by their own Cabinet minister Kiren Rijiju. The multicultural nation, where Sikkim became part of due to a historical reason, must be respected. Migrant workers will result in influx, there is one-fourth of migrant population in Sikkim. Yet, we were not affected by the plight of the migrant workers. Our hospitality in Sikkim has always been appreciated,” he added.
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