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Impact On Covid 19 On Human Rights

The life threatening covid-19 pandemic has affected lives of millions around the world. Originating from Wuhan, china, the virulent virus started spreading its roots in all walks of life. Many countries were forced to impose lockdown for an indefinite amount of time. Wearing masks and maintaining social distance became the norm. Schools, colleges, offices, shopping complexes were shut down. Daily wage laborers had to return to their native place.

The pandemic is an unprecedented global public health emergency which required nations to implement extraordinary measures. More than anything, the first and foremost priority was to save lives. Therefore, countries around the world imposed lockdowns, restricted movement of people, restricted social gatherings etc. however, these measures affected lives of people and their security, their access to healthcare, food, education, work as well as to enjoyment.

In India, the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 was invoked. The idea of containment zones was introduced in places where there were huge numbers of cases.  With no certainty as to when the virus will be gone, the measures imposed affected the human rights of the people.

Right to health

Right to health forms an intrinsic part of human rights which is available to all Indian citizens. The country is undergoing a grave crisis after the imposition of lockdown. During the early stage of the pandemic, the states and union territories shifted their attention towards protection of citizens which involved requesting them to stay safe indoors, closing down all the shops, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies etc.

The closure of hospitals, clinics led to restrictions on outpatients, inpatient movements, and laboratory experiments. In addition, with no work and forced to stay indoors, a large number of people suffering from depression, anxiety were reported. However, due to the restrictions imposed the right to access mental health treatment was curbed.

According to a report released by National Health Mission, there was a drop in the delivery of essential supplements to pregnant women. With less number of health workers and practitioners at work, a large number of unattended births were reported.  There was a looming fear of pregnant women and newborns getting affected by the virus, also affected the regular checkups at clinics and hospitals. This led to number of problems related to pregnancy and child birth.

Right to life

The fear of contracting the disease forced people to purchase all the safety requirements which included masks, sanitation items etc. However, the unnecessary stocking of items led to a sharp shortage in food and other essential requirements. Thus, there was a dramatic change in living standard of people.

Right to privacy

Article 21 of the constitution speaks about Right to Privacy of an individual. It is a very important part of human rights. However, during the outbreak of the pandemic this right was also affected. For instance, the arogya setu app which was introduced by the government provided the location of those infected by the virus. The government assured that the app was not designed for safety purposed and did not intend to violate the privacy of individuals. However, its location tracking feature sent all the details to the government.

Right to access information

Right to information is considered as one of the principal rights of an individual. It is the duty of government to provide authentic information regarding health, its cure and prevention. The government fulfilled its duty by providing information related to symptoms of the disease, precautions and safety measures to be taken etc. however, information relating to the number of cases and number deaths caused by the virus were not provided to the public.

Right to free movement

The right to free movement can only be curtailed under some specific circumstances. However, the restrictions imposed must be reasonable and according to due process of law. All means of public transport were shut due to the imposition of nationwide lockdown. This affected the movement of migrant workers who were forced to return to their native places. With no income and no means of transport, they had no option but to travel by foot. Even though the government made arrangements for food and shelter but the measures were taken only when the plight of the workers was highlighted by various new channels and social media.

Right to protection

During the outbreak of pandemic, the right to protection was of prime importance. The protection of health workers was vital because they regularly came in contact with infected people. However, the shortages in the supply of PPE kit and N95 masks affected this right.

Right to education

The education sector was the hardest hit. With all the educational institutions shut down, authorities were forced to adopt virtual mode of learning. However, the idea of providing online classes affected the right to education of those who could not afford or did not have proper tools for attending the classes.

The government did take timely actions by implementing lockdown and protecting people from the virus. However, the government should have been more transparent about its measures and actions. With proper planning and communicating with its citizens, it could have protected the rights from being violated. Human rights are the rights which are available to every citizen irrespective of class, caste, sex etc. These rights must be protected not only during extraordinary situations (pandemic) but also during normal days.

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