Bhopal: The corona-induced lockdown infringed upon the basic human rights of the people, including their right to life, right to earn a livelihood and the right to travel freely. And vulnerable sections of society were the worst-hit.
Human Rights Day is celebrated across the world every year on December 10. This year’s Human Rights Day theme relates to the Covid-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to build back better by ensuring human rights are central to the recovery efforts.
On the eve of the day, Free Press spoke to some human rights organisations in the city to know what kind of rights violations they had witnessed and how they had helped the victims.
‘The lockdown was a major violation of human rights of the vulnerable sections — women, the poor and daily wage-earners, especially migrants. The poor lost their livelihood, the migrants had to trudge for hundreds of miles and women were forced to stay indoors in close proximity with the perpetrators of violence against them. With public transport shut, their mobility and, consequently, their accessibility to agencies which could help them were severely restricted. Even the police were occupied with implementing the lockdown and had no time to listen to the woes of women and the poor. These were the chief challenges we faced. I won’t say that we could meet the challenges successfully. But we did counsel around 60 victims of domestic violence over phone. In extreme cases, we also ensured that cops visit their place.’Sarika Sinha, director, ActionAid, MP
‘The Preamble of our Constitution opens with the words, “We the people of India…” It means that all persons are equal. But the fact is that inequalities abound in our social life. The Covid pandemic has only increased them. Earlier, we used to talk about education, health, hygiene and so forth. During the pandemic, we had to shift focus to loss of livelihood. Out-of-work men vented their frustration on women and the women on children. We counselled such women and children through WhatsApp video calls and Zoom meetings.’Kumud Singh, member, Sarokar
‘We work among nomadic tribes and other marginalized people. In many slum clusters, we had persuaded kids to start going to school. With schools closed, they fell into all sorts of injurious addictions, including sniffing whiteners. To keep them engaged, we started libraries in the open, organised story-writing contests and so on. Then, scores of men had lost their livelihoods. We helped the women of their families set up shops to sell vegetables, toys, masks, cloth bags, diaries, papad, provisions, saris, kebab, fruits and so forth. Besides, we have also formed a 15-member counsellor team at the bustee level to curb suicide cases.’Savita, member, Muskaan
‘Our organisation works among construction workers and street vendors. They were deprived of their right to life during the pandemic. They had no work and were dependent on PDS shops for grain. But not everyone had ration cards. We supplied cooked and uncooked food to around 2,000 such families, spending around Rs 18 lakh on it. One of my friends sold his bike, another his mobile phone. The father of one of my friends donated the money he had kept aside for his Haj pilgrimage. We also arranged for the return of 160 construction labourers to their native places.’Ashish Raghuvanshi, coordinator, YUVA, Bhopal