SUFFERINGS OF POOR DURING CORONAVIRUS BY JASMINE SIDDIQUI

INTRODUCTION

With the rapid increase of death tolls of Covid-19 patients there was a sudden nation-wide lockdown in the country. Not only India but almost every country adopted self-isolation and quarantine to avoid spread of this deadly virus for which there is still no vaccine available. Quarantine, though an essential step, left millions of people in poverty. Lack of resources and no savings caused severe harm to the below-the-poverty-line population. It’s a well-established fact that the working and poor class is the worst and the most vulnerable class during an outbreak of a Pandemic. The article is talking about Covid-19 that has devastated the poor. It has been further discussed about rights of poor and factors due to which they are the most affected at times of a pandemic.

IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS ON THE POOR

Since March 25, the entire nation has been in a lockdown. All shops, stores, markets, offices, gyms etc are closed. Quarantine and social distancing are preventive actions which have been proven effective when it comes to stop the fast spreading of diseases but self-isolating is a privilege of the upper-class whereas low-income people cannot afford it.

Although during Covid-19 the lower-class is not directly hit but of course they are the most and the worst affected. As the lockdown engulfed the country, media reported plenty of incidents showing the indigent class suffering due to it. NDTV reported on 16th April, 2020 about the plight of poor farmers who spent thousands on crops and seeds but due to lockdown there was no one to buy them.

On March 28, thousands of migrant workers crowded Anand Vihar Bus terminus to reach their villages. Many of them were without money and food for past few days. They were stuck where they were without any food and shelter. To not die of hunger they had to come out of their places in search of food but then the police started beating them.[2]Poor people fear that hunger may kill them before Coronavirus. The nationwide lockdown has left them unemployed.

Not only India but lower-income families of other countries too are going through the same situation. An Indonesian woman was reported saying, “No work means no money and no money means no food.”[3]

People might think that Coronivirus does not discriminate as we all are equally into this but the reality is that its consequences are different for rich and different for poor. People suffer differently depending on their social class. When lockdown was announced the upper and middle class people started locupleting themselves with food and other essentials whereas the other section of society was left with no means. To buy ration they need money. For them, staying home is never an option. A lot of daily-wage workers and migrant workers came out on street. Some started begging while others were on a verge of dying due to hunger.

LACK OF RESOURCES DUE TO WHICH PEOPLE SUFFER

The indigent groups suffer due to lack of various resources. Some of which are:

  • Health inequalities

Health disparities are a cause of poverty. According to a report by Chinese Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, people below poverty line are 10% likelier to have a chronic health condition. According to a WHO report, over 45% of WHO Member States have less than 1 physician per 1000 population.[4] Another report of WHO found out that at least half of the world’s population cannot obtain essential health services.[5]

The number of physicians is unequally distributed around the Globe.[6]TOI reported on 23 March, 2020 that in Lucknow the testing facility was available only at one hospital and doctors were working 24*7 without any leave since February 3. With such less numbers of doctors and testing facilities the poor aren’t able to access these facilities. They mostly live in rural areas and it costs them a lot to reach the cities for checkups. Besides, good private hospitals charge exorbitant fees whereas the government hospitals in India lack proper facilities due to which many urban and rural poor class people are left unchecked.

India is also a signatory to the International Health Regulations, 2005. Its purpose is to provide protection against international spread of diseases.

  • Food and money

The low-income groups usually have five to seven members in their family. They are mostly daily-wage earners and there are no permanent jobs. During a Pandemic they have to bear all the expenses out of their savings. Most of them do not have enough savings so as to afford lockdown. India stands at 102 on Global Hunger Index.[7] Nation-wide lockdown has left more than half of the population starving.

  • Housing and other facilities

Another scarce resource is housing. Social distancing is a luxury. It is only the upper and middle class that can afford it. For the low income families it is nothing but stress. Their houses are congested and lack proper sanitation and hygiene. They do not have soaps and enough water, forget sanitizers! Five to seven members live together in a single room in slums and other areas which make them more prone to the infections and viruses. Children who come from well families can get their education from home. They have mobiles, laptops, books and internet whereas the poor children lack these facilities which hamper their education

  • Information

Information plays a great role at times of pandemic. Information about the risks, symptoms, dos and don’ts regarding the pandemic can help in its prevention. Unfortunately, only the upper and middle class gets access to information easily. Poor class people do not have mobiles and internet and televisions too. Many of them do not know how to read and therefore there is no option of reading newspaper too. The well-off families understand the information in a better way and apply it whereas on the other hand the indigent class suffers due to their poverty, illiteracy and lack of education.

RIGHTS OF POOR

Extreme poverty may lead to violation of human dignity as well as human rights. Be it lockdown or working days, indigent groups are generally deprived of their basic human rights. They aren’t aware about the rights which they can claim against the State and duties which the State has towards them.

 Article 25 of the UDHR states, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing medical care and necessary social services and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

The Fundamental Rights under part III and DPSPs under part IV of the Indian Constitution eliminate all sort of inequalities and provide for a welfare state.

In the case of Basheshar Nath v. Commissioner of Income Tax Delhi[8], the court held that article 21 includes right to livelihood and if a person is deprived of his livelihood then he is also deprived of his right to life. The same has been reiterated in Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation.[9]

 In People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India,[10] the Supreme Court in regards to right to food and freedom from malnutrition ordered the Gujrat government to take appropriate measures for helping the starving low-income families of the region.

RECENT MEASURES TO HELP INDIGENT PEOPLE

The nation is described by its people. When the citizens are happy and healthy the nation prospers. Right steps taken at right time may save thousands of lives. It is worth appreciating that the central government is providing a relief package of Rs 1.7-lakh-crore for poor workers who need help due to lockdown and the dependents will be provided with free ration for the next three months. Under MGNREGA the wages will now rise from Rs 182 to Rs. 202 per day and women who are Jan Dhan account holders will get Rs 500 per month for the next three months.[11] The Supreme Court of India on 13thApril, 2020 had ordered that testing for Covid-19 would be free for poor persons and on 30th April it directed the central government to provide ration to even those dependents who are without a ration card. The BCI is also looking for helping financially weak lawyers whereas Karnataka State Bar Council has already created a relief fund for lawyers for necessities.

CONCLUSION

Even after so many measures the indigent class still suffers. There is a clear and visible discrimination between people on the basis of their status as rich and poor at times of Pandemic.[12] A.14 of the Indian Constitution which ensures right to equality to every citizen is confined within the written spheres only. What we see in practical life is way too different. Thus, it is our duty to eliminate this difference. Today, let us all pledge to help the needy around us.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Jasmine Siddiqui, 2nd year, B.A. LL.B (H), Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

[2]  Charmy Harikrishnan, Misiries of Migrant Labourers,  The Economic Times, (Apr 11, 2020 , 11:11 p.m) https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/miseries-of-migrant-labourers-worsen-amid-coronavirus-pandemic-and-lockdown/articleshow/75099573.cms.

[3] The Conversation, ( Mar.20, 2020, 3:18 p.m), https://theconversation.com/no-work-no-money-how-self-isolation-due-to-covid-19-pandemic-punishes-the-poor-in-indonesia-13414.

[4] WHO Report, https://www.who.int/gho/health_workforce/physicians_density/en/.

[5] WHO Report, https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/13-12-2017-world-bank-and-who-half-the-world-lacks-access-to-essential-health-services-100-million-still-pushed-into-extreme-poverty-because-of-health-expenses.

[6]WHO Report, https://www.who.int/gho/health_workforce/physicians_density/en/.

[7]  Global Hunger Index, 2019, https://www.globalhungerindex.org/india.html.

[8]  Basheshar Nath v. Commissioner of Income Tax Delhi, AIR 1959 SC 149, (India).

[9] Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation, (1985) 3 SCC 545, (India).

[10] People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, (2019) 15 SCC 748, (India).

[11]The Economics Time India, (Mar 27, 2020, 07.45 AM), https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/fm-nirmala-sitharaman-announces-rs-1-7-lakh-crore-relief-package-for-poor/articleshow/74825054.cms.

[12] Adv. Rakesh Dwivedi, Is A.14 dead during corona war, livelaw, (18 April 2020, 8:26 p.m) , https://www.livelaw.in/columns/is-article-14-dead-during-corona-war-155453.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are of the authors and do not necessarily reflect that of katcheri,in.

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