New Delhi: Citing acute economic distress among the poor and score of stranded, jobless migrant workers across the country, the Right to Food Campaign (RFC), an umbrella organisation of food rights activists, has urged upon the Centre not to extend the lockdown beyond May 3.
Referring to at least 270 deaths due to due to hunger, exhaustion, state violence, suicides and inability to access healthcare during the lockdown period, an RFC statement said “the social and economic consequences of continuing such blanket measures are too high and cannot be justified. The right to a dignified of the people cannot be threatened at any point of time, more so during this global pandemic.”
As the countrywide lockdown completes one month today, RFC said the experience showed that it had tremendous economic distress, especially for the poor.
“Crores of migrant workers are stranded in different parts of the country, unable to earn a livelihood and desperate to reach home. With more than 90% of the workforce being in the informal sector, people are getting into a situation where they do not have enough resources to even be able to afford basic food items,” it said.
Terming the relief measures by the Centre and state governments as “largely inadequate” to address the food crisis, the statement demanded universal public distribution system and the provision for 10kg of grain, 1.5 kg of pules and 800 gm edible oil per person per month, for the next six months (i.e. until September) at the very least.
Noting that many sick persons were unable to reach healthcare facilities because many hospitals and clinics had been closed down or were not functioning to their full capacity and, the RFC said: “We are already hearing stories of people in kachi bastis suffering from water shortage and dehydration.”
Further, the statement called upon the government to strictly monitor “police brutalities” on migrant workers who have been treated with “acute inhumanity, so much so that many have been slammed with charges of Section 144 violations.”
The RFC also demanded that the government arrange safe and sanitised modes of public transport for the migrant workers to return to their native places. Incidentally, some governments have been beating the lockdown guidelines by arranging for buses for students stranded in a coaching hub in Kota, Rajasthan.
Hoping that the 40-day lockdown has been used to prepare the health system to deal with a spread of the coronavirus in times to come, the RFC called upon the government to now focus on “putting in place systems for vigorous identify, trace, test, isolate, treat strategies to be followed.”
Read the full statement below.