Taking note of the mass movement of India’s migrant labourers amid a nationwide lockdown, the United Nations Human Rights chief Thursday urged the government to ensure measures to contain the novel coronavirus do not “exacerbate existing inequalities and vulnerabilities.”
“The lockdown in India represents a massive logistical and implementation challenge given the population size and its density and we all hope the spread of the virus can be checked,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement, adding “it is nonetheless important to ensure that measures in response to the COVID-19 are neither applied in a discriminatory manner nor exacerbate existing inequalities and vulnerabilities.”
UN Human Rights chief chief Michelle Bachelet also condemned reports of migrant labourers being assaulted by policemen on duty, urging them to “show restraint and abide by international standards on the use of force and humane treatment in their efforts to respond to this pandemic, in accordance with the Supreme Court’s instruction.”
While lauding the Supreme Court’s decision of directing the Centre to ensure the migrants are accommodated in relief centres, the statement called on the government to do more “as the human tragedy continues to unfold before our eyes.”
“This is a time for domestic solidarity and unity. I encourage the Government to draw on India’s vibrant civil society to reach out to the most vulnerable sectors of society, to ensure no one is left behind in this time of crisis,” Bachelet said.
Caravans of migrant labourers have been walking hundreds of kilometres along highways and across shuttered cities, running out of food amid the nationwide disruption in supply chains since the 21-day COVID-19 lockdown the Prime Minister announced on March 24.
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