The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice on a plea seeking to declare fair price shop owners and their employees as front line essential workers and provide all the benefits that front line defence workers are entitled to, compensation in case of death and coverage of medical expenses.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh sought the response of the Delhi government on the plea, which also seeks directions to provide essential items, including masks and sanitizers, and face shield, on a daily basis.
The matter will now be heard on July 23.
The plea has been filed, in the main, by the Delhi Ration Dealers Union through advocates Yash Aggarwal and Chitrakshi.
The plea stated that due to the notification of March 26, by the government of NCT of Delhi, office of commissioner: food supplies and consumer affairs, owners of fairs price shops or ration shops have been ordered to remain seven days a week. The plea said that while performing their duty to distribute the ration they selflessly exposed themselves to the undetected virus on a daily basis.
The petition also stated that due to the nature of their duty, petitioners should be declared as frontline workers. It is to be taken into consideration that since the lockdown, imposed on March 1 ration shop workers are working, and they have not even got a single holiday. Still they have performed their duty toward society with the utmost honour. The respondents have ignored this fact. Therefore, petitioners have been discriminated against by the respondents by not including them in the list of frontline workers.
The plea said: “The Petitioners have performed their duty. However, the respondents have ignored the fact, and they have not been included as front line essential workers. Many shop owners/workers/ employees and their family members have been infected by Covid-19 and no help is being provided by the government. Considering that they have to indulge in public dealing every day, they should be declared front line essential workers.”
It further submitted: “That till date, the petitioners are working every day to perform their duty towards the society and distributing rations daily following the notification dated April 7, 2021 by the government of NCT of Delhi office of commissioner: food supplies and consumer affairs”.
The plea avers that other governments have also started declaring fair price shop owners as frontline essential workers like the state of Rajasthan vide its order dated March 25, 2021 issued by Finance department of state of Rajasthan.
Furthermore, it said that all the essential items, including but not limited to sanitizers and masks, should be provided on a daily basis to petitioners so that they can perform their duty following the proper safety measures. It also alleged that the earlier civil defence volunteers were deployed in front of fair price shops to manage the crowd because at the beginning of the month when new ration comes there are a huge gathering of people.
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It prayed, “That because of rising cases of COVID 19 civil defence volunteers be deployed again to manage the people, ensuring safety measures are being followed and cardholders maintain social distancing.”