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Can’t direct state govt to extend financial aid to workers hit by Covid-19 curbs: Orissa HC

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The Orissa High Court has said that it is not possible on its part to separately consider the grievances of workers whose livelihood has been hit by Covid-19 restrictions imposed on puja festivals by the Odisha government.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice B.P. Routray passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Amulya Behera and Others. In this petition, 20 petitioners, who claimed to be office-bearers of various puja committees in and around Cuttack city, have come together to file the petition in which there are broadly two prayers.

The Odisha government had prescribed the SOP in its order on August 9, 2021 taking into account all puja festivals in the months of August, September, October and November 2021.

As far as the first prayer is concerned, the Court has, in its order dated  September 17, 2021, approved the aforementioned SOP dated August 9, 2021. It therefore does not propose to re-visit the issue since the reasons for the Court’s decision are spelt out in that order.

The second prayer is regarding the livelihood of those workers whose livelihood during the festival has, according to the petitioners, got adversely affected, and therefore, a direction was sought to the State Government to frame a scheme or extend financial assistance to such workers.

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“As far as the second prayer is concerned, since the restrictions placed by the SOP is in the background of Covid-19 pandemic and since the pandemic has affected a large number of workers in various trades and vocations since March 2020, it is not possible for the Court to direct the State Government to separately provide for workers associated with the puja festivals for grant of such relief,” the Court said.

The Court held that in any event this is a matter of the policy of the Government. The Court is not expected to issue such directions in the absence of empirical data.

“Leaving it open to the Petitioners to seek other avenues for ventilating their grievance as regards the second prayer, the Court disposes of the writ petition,” the Court ordered.

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