Lockdown and Human Rights of the Indigent

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This Article is written by Srishti Rajpoot, a 2nd year law student from Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida.

The greatest challenge since World War II i.e. corona virus is at its peak nowadays. Almost all the countries in the world are affected by it now. The states are using their full power, their whole resources to fight with the unseen virus. Testing and treatment of patient, contact tracing, ban on travel in various countries, canceling gathering, closing of shops, restaurants and bar are part of strategy followed by the states.

However in such global health crisis, when mostly states are under lockdown.  India is following the same strategy as of other countries. But the question is, are we same as of other countries, can same formula work on us to. Might be in case of fighting the virus it will work its best but what about the common people and most importantly what about the poor in our country. The global economic crisis that will be predicted to come after the lockdown seems to be in India already.

The condition of poor in our country is not already very good and due to this lockdown it becomes worse for them. The trauma of losing job, lack of money to eat food, the reverse migration and even the worst one is the inhuman treatment to the workers seems throughout the Indian states was not predicted. The human rights of these poor people were denying, due to lack of knowledge and resources they are not even able to fight against this unlawful treatment.

What are Human Rights?

Human rights are the rights that individual have because he/she is a human being. They are essential to a human. Human rights are universal, inalienable, indivisible and interdependent.

By the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948, the human rights gain significance throughout the world. Due to the effects of World War II the 50 members of UN joined and create this list of rights, under the guidance of Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady of US and also a human rights activist.

India was also a signatory of Universal Declaration of Human Rights, hence a number of human rights are provided under the Constitution of India. The Indian Constitution came into force into 26th January, 1950. The human rights under the Indian constitution were called as Fundamental Rights.

Equality before law, prohibition of discrimination, equality of opportunity, freedom of speech and expression and the most important one, also known as mini constitution of Indian i.e. Right to life and personal liberty are some of the basic human rights given under Indian Constitution.

Present situation of Human Rights-

In some countries like Bangladesh, China, Turkey etc. journalist were arrested to for reporting on corona virus. In Ethiopia there was a ban on telephone and internet service during lockdown. In Kashmir, the Indian government made accessible on low 2G network. In China recently 10 people died when the building where they are quarantine was collapsed. Also all over the world the cases of domestic violence are at their peak level since last decade. The conditions of poor were even worse. Being illiterate or less educated, their condition is peculiar.

 The condition of poor in India-

Migrant workers walk towards a bus station along a highway with their families.

The lockdown in India seems to bring deep social economic inequality among citizens. It was like country is dividing among poor and rich. The reverse migration of poor due to lack of food and income is common nowadays. It not only affects the financial conditions of the poor but its impact on the mental condition can’t be treated even if they get their jobs back.

Some of the various problems faced by the poor nowadays are as follows-

i) Lack of food-

It was said by a migrant on road that “I won’t die of corona. Before this I’ll die of hunger.” This line is itself is complete to say about their pain and their helplessness. And the government is unable to fulfill their right to food.

ii) Internal migration without transportation

Due to lockdown all the transportation services including bus service and railways are not available. Hence the only option left to the migrant workers is to move either by bicycles of walk barefoot to their native villages.

iii) Lost Jobs-

The international labor organization estimates that 195 million jobs were lost as of post corona virus impact. Most of them were from India, USA and China basically. The job loss is the main and very basic reason for migration and hunger crisis of poor in India.

iv)Inhuman behavior-

The migrant workers used to spend 14 day in quarantine before going to their respective home. From their also some videos and news were seen about how they are treated in such pandemic. Even after going home from big cities people were treating them as untouchables.

v) Post pandemic impact on education of poor children-

Most of the poor children goes school because of the mid day meal program which is now closed due to lockdown. And it may remain closed even after this pandemic. This will surely decrease the number of students in government schools.

vi) Changes in Labour Laws-

The new ordinance in many states including Uttar Pradesh, proposes that all factories and establishments engaged in manufacturing process will be exempt from “the operation of all labour laws for a period of three years”. This is like a additional problem to the workers in such corona crises age.

vii) The Auraiya road and Maharashtra railway track accident-

In Auraiya a road accident between two trucks killed 23 migrant workers. Also another case was of where migrants were sleeping on railway track because they thought no train was running and 16 of them ran over by train.

The Courts view on this Issue-

The Andhra Pradesh High Court said that it would be failing in its role as the protector of rights if no steps were taken at this stage by the Court to alleviate the suffering of the workers.

The Aurangabad Bench of Bombay High Court also observed that during this COVID-19 pandemic, the principle of “no work- no wages” cannot be made apply.

Also a PIL is filed in the Supreme Court challenging the harsh labour laws of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Conclusion-

Explaining the crisis of poor in such harsh times is really very difficult.  Their right to food, shelter even their right to life was denied during this lockdown. The Courts are concerned about this but still it’s a time taking process to make give judgment. However that basic deficiency was in the plans of government, there is a large difference between who avail them and the one who actually need them. We have to understand their problem, it is true that lockdown is essential in such time but also one can’t deny the right of the poor.

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