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HUMAN RIGHTS A ‘JOKE’ UNDER COVID 19 PANDEMIC ?

On 17 November 2019, a 55 year old man in the city of Wuhan, China contracted a disease. A disease which nobody imagined would spread like wildfire around the globe and force us to sit in our four walled boxes, waiting endlessly for a miracle to happen. This disease known as the Corona virus or COVID-19, is a deadly virus which transmits and spreads among human beings thorough physical touch and is carried in the form of droplets. The first Corona virus case detected in India was on 30 January 2020 in Kerala. Today, that is, on 30 May 2020, there are 1,74,000 confirmed cases and deaths almost touching 5000 across India[1].

  The Central Government issued Orders prescribing lockdown in the country on 24 March 2020. The Orders were issued under the National Disaster Management Act 2005 along with the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897. In exercise of the powers under section 6(2)(i) of the DM Act, the Central Government issued the Order dated 24.03.2020, directing the Ministries/ Departments of Government of India, and the State/Union Territory Governments to take effective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. Further, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued an Order dated 24.03.2020 under Section 10(2)(l) of the DM Act, directing the Ministries/ Departments of Government of India and State/Union Territory Governments to take effective measures for ensuring social distancing so as to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The Order was to remain in force for a period of 21 days only; however, it was further extended till 3rd May 2020 and again for two weeks, till 17th May 2020[2].

When the nationwide lockdown was announced, the citizens sitting at their houses applauded the decision by the government but, there was a section of the society who did not really benefit by the lockdown and those are Migrant workers. The construction work was disallowed and people were ordered to work from home. These migrant workers who lived on their daily wage had nowhere to go to, and nothing to eat. Moreover, they had no facility of transport which could help them reach their native places and towns. Flummoxed migrants, having no sense of hope, started their journey on foot towards their home. The government did have the responsibility for their protection of health and well being, but there are a number of incidents which shows their failure to perform their duty efficiently. Whether it’s the killing of 24 migrants from a colliding truck or it is the death of 80 migrants on the Shramik trains[3], migrant workers have suffered. This is a clear violation of Right to Life under article 21.

Actions of police to punish those violating orders have also reportedly resulted in abuses against people in need. A 32 year old man was beaten to death in west Bengal after he went out to get milk[4]. There have been video evidences of people who were trying to reach their homes by foot, being humiliated on roads by the police. Vegetable vendors, rickshaw pullers, taxi drivers have been specifically targeted by the police. It seems as if some police officers have been over using their power and have been treating it as a license to humiliate people and disrespect them.

Looking at both sides, there are various instances where police officials are being brutally humiliated and disrespected by the citizens. Where police is trying to patiently make the people understand the dangers of this virus and the importance of following the orders, they are being unruly and insulting the police officials and ordering not to obey any orders. In an incident in Punjab, a police officer’s hand was chopped off by a sword when he was trying to intervene a person who rammed his car in a police barricade to stop movement in the wake of COVID 19[5].

Several heath workers and doctors have been attacked and humiliated by the patients as they work day and night for our safety and well being. In an incident in Indore, where some doctors went to collect some samples for COVID 19 testing, a mob started throwing stones at them and threatened them to never come back. There have been reports of doctors being spat at, manhandled and beaten up. Female nurses have been a subject to harassment by the patients which is evident in an incident where some patients were walking naked and using vulgar language at the nurses. The plight of the doctors does not end here as there have been reports that doctors in some places are not being provided with proper PPE (personal protective equipment) kits to keep them protected from catching the virus. This is also a violation of Right to Life.

There have been reports of hospitals and especially quarantine centers being unhygienic and not properly sanitized for the patients which is causing a havoc among them and on social media. Patients are not getting proper balanced diet or even a hygienic food to keep them healthy or even survive. There have been video evidences of stale and inedible food being served to quarantine patients in Bihar and further the condition of the place of their quarantine is beyond imagination[6]. This is a clear violation of the right to health.

There have been reports of governments in many countries conducting mass surveillance in order to carry out contact tracing of the COVID 19 spread and its carriers. ‘Aarogya Setu’ app launched the Government of India has been launched to trace the history of COVID 19 patients. There have been reports of mass surveillance and saving of data of a large number of people which could be misused in the future by the government. This clearly is a breach of right to privacy of the citizens.

There have been reports of suppression of information. The number of COVID 19 positive patients and the number of deaths from COVID 19 have been reportedly misrepresented by states in order to show themselves in a good light. This is a violation of freedom of press and right to information.

There have been many more human right violations during these tough times. Rights such as right to education, right to work, right to reside, right to travel, right to freedom of religion, right to public assembly, right to food and shelter and so on. We should now focus more on how to protect them. The government’s priority must be the protection people and their rights. The stigma attached to the COVID 19 positive patients and the doctors and health professional treating them is immense. There are being a subject to discrimination and are not being treated equally in the society which is a clear violation of their right to equality. We should understand that the threat is the virus and not the people[7]. Defaming a particular sect or religion or people of a particular region is not going to benefit anyone. No country can fight this alone. Every country and its people should understand that they are not alone and must stand with each other to fight this virus along with maintaining peace and stability.


[1] World o Meters, https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/india/

[2] ‘Status of Human Rights in the age of COVID 19’, India Legal Live, 6 May 2020, https://www.indialegallive.com/special-story/status-of-human-rights-in-the-age-of-covid-19

[3] ’80 people have died on Shramik trains for migrants:Reports’, The Week, 28 May 2020, https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2020/05/30/80-people-have-died-on-shramik-trains-for-migrants-report.html

[4] The Wire staff,’ West Bengal: Man who was buying milk dies after police thrash him’, The Wire,26 March 2020, https://thewire.in/rights/west-bengal-police-curfew-man-thrashed-dies

[5] Manveena Suri and Rishabh Madhavendra Pratap,’ Indian police officer’s hand chopped off in sword attack during coronavirus lockdown’, The Edition,13 April 2020, https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/13/asia/india-coronavirus-lockdown-sword-attack-dp-intl-hnk-scli/index.html

[6] Dipak Mishra, bad food, water fights,2 toilets for 240, Bihar’s migrants come home to a different crisis, The Print, 22 May 2020, https://theprint.in/india/bad-food-water-fights-2-toilets-for-240-bihars-migrants-come-home-to-a-different-crisis/426651/

[7] Harry Kretchmer, ‘ 6 ways to protect human rights during lockdown- According to UN, World Economic Forum,  1 May 2020, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/05/un-human-rights-coronavirus-lockdown/

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