Today the whole world is fighting with an unknown enemy, a small virus ‘corona’ which is challenging the 21st century’s progress and holdbacks its growth, also puts a question mark over the so-called development. Not only the underdeveloped even the developed nations seem helpless. Still, the world is fighting rigorously. In our country too the whole system viz medical staff, police, administration, etc all are putting their high efforts and working selflessly to put control on this deadly disease.
Since there is no cure available to terminate the pathogen till the date, the only solution remains to control its effect is to break the chain. And for this, the system came up with the concept of social distancing and imposing lockdown. In India government announced the country lockdown on 25 March, much earlier than many European and American nations.
The lockdown facilitated effective physical distancing, coupled with expansion of core public health measures such as detection, isolation and tracing contact of COVID-19 positive people. But the sudden imposing of full lockdown, shutdown of all means of communication and transportation and essential units, the citizens faced a lot or we can say that the public health emergency was rapidly turning into a human right crisis. As the disease ramping up, the efforts to put control over it frequently drag down the basic rights of citizens.
As we saw in the last few days, to put restrictions and imposing lockdown the authorities have been granted more power also several far-reaching laws. The potential has been building for a clash between liberty, privacy, and public health measures.
There have been some issues regarding social and economical rights that highlighted during the pandemic –
According to Ministry of Statistics, India’s growth in the fourth quarter of 2020 went down to 3.1 %. The World Bank and rating agencies initially revised India’s growth for FY2021 with the lowest figures India has seen in three decades. CRISIL announced that this will perhaps be India’s worst recession since independence. Within the 2 months unemployment rose from 6.7% on 15 March to 26% on 19 May. Estimated 14 crore people lost employment while salaries cut for many others. Supply chain have been put under stress with the lockdown restrictions in place, initially there was a lack of clarity in streamlining what an “essential” is and what is not. The informal sector and daily wages groups have been at most risk.
When we talk about human rights we expect two types rights, first that are basic which mostly had already been provided by our constitution for e.g Right of livelihood, Right of shelter, Right of proper food and the second in line are some psychological that too are necessary for a human being for e.g Right of security, Right to be with family, Right of exposure. For decades millions of workers have moved from state and some to shore abroad looking for opportunities and livelihoods, With the unexpected imposing of lockdown, a situation of panic occurred among those who working or residing outside of their hometown especially the students and labor class and the scarceness of both types of rights, huge number of migrants especially the labor class with a sense of despair came out on road to reach their birthplace. Images of millions of Indians trudging across hundreds of kilometer some even losing their lives in the attempt back home have brought for the severity of the ruthless lockdown.
Discrimination and Xenophobia
Indian Constitution mentioned in its Fundamental rights that no person on any ground shall be discriminate (INDIA CONST. art 15). During the pandemic, we observed that lack of knowledge and misinformation leads the tendency of discrimination not only with the infected persons but also with medical staff, sweepers, etc. and the tendency of xenophobia also emerging out. Many incidents of discrimination towards the citizen of north east also been seen.
With the occurrence of this deadly disease in our country, a single community had been targeted and criticized for spreading it also phrases such as “foreigner’s disease” are also been used. Sometimes the targeted approach of media also has been sighted. This all can lead to propensity of racial discrimination and a sense of partisanship. Also, such incidents directly attack the Right of Dignity and Liberty of a person or community.
Rigorous Laws and Action
The health emergency has provided authorities the power to put someone in quarantine and detain if they believe infectious for up to 14 days and more. We know till that the only way to fight with this disease is the isolation of the infected person but we should remember that the unregulated quarantine of any person only based on belief and suspicion and not on the medical report can exert mental stress and depression, also there were incidences of insufficient and improper arrangements at the quarantine center.
In order to tackle down the crisis and for the accomplishment of health emergency strict action and rigorous laws were imposed. In some cases charges of sedition (Indian Penal Code, 1860, Sec. 124A ) also been charged. The authorities also use harsh actions to maintain the lockdown. In some states with a view to revive the economy and to attract investment, LABOUR LAWS were exempted for a period of time.
Situation at Health Centres
Besides the quarantine center, in authorized health center too, a situation of apprehensiveness is being occurred. Many times we have seen that lack of isolation wards and phobia of infection, the patients are been facing disproportionate treatment, cases of residing infected persons with dead bodies are also been seen. When on one hand the public authorities and staff working rigorously to fight against the deadly virus, many private medical institutions, and practitioners on other hand distancing themselves from providing their duties even for other diseases other than COVID-19.
Outbreak of Mental Health Issues and Domestic Violence
As the pandemic rapidly sweeps, it is inducing a considerable degree of fear, worry and concern in the population at large. As new measures and psychological impacts are introduced- especially quarantine and its effects on many people’s usual activities and routine- levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use and self harm or suicidal behavior also rose. Also during the lockdown, there has been an increase in the number of complaints related to domestic violence and child abuse as seen from the news.
Besides the above issues several other issues like,
· Attack on Health workers and Policemen,
· Censorship of original data by authority,
· The credibility of govt. issued mobile applications ( issue of privacy),
· Cyber crime and other criminal activities, like theft also rose up.
We are very well know that our administration is fighting hard with uttermost efforts and there is need of the time to take stiff steps, as we are fighting with an unknown enemy and there is no resultant cure so far, than it becomes right of the government to take rigorous steps. Thus measures like lockdown (The Disaster Management Act, 2005, section 6), and some power from Epidemic Diseases Act,1897, section 2 and section 2A which give state and central government to take necessary steps in the situation of an epidemic to control its outbreak, became necessary.
World Health Organisation (WHO) and various nations praises GOI’s “timely and tough” decision for imposing lockdown. The Health Ministry said that had a lockdown not been imposed, the country would have been staring at least 8 lakh cases by April 15. Till date we have 1. 40 lakh active cases. Therefore it is inappropriate to say that lockdown is complete failure and have no benefit. Although it had many issues but it was the need of time.
Yet there is no vaccine or medicine available for the treatment of the disease and there are social and economic coasts to further lockdowns, we have to learn and adopt ourselves with the dangerous diseases while maintaining precautions. And it will not surprising that we will see frequent lockdowns and contaminating zones, whenever there will sudden outbreak of disease at community level. Thus in future whenever situation of lockdown emerges the authorities should ensure the problems that had been faced during the four lockdowns by the citizens. The disease should not be used as a basis to target particular groups, or individuals. It should not function as a cover for repressive action under the guise of protecting health.
Till to the date, our country is performing extremely well as compares to the western nations, some of the issues during the lockdown highlighted here with a hope to get light of government on them.
Author Details: Ashutosh Raghuvanshi (Government New Law College Indore M.P)
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