By-Aswani C Rajeev
‘Being treated fairly’ is the basic nature of human right. Every human is born with equal and inalienable freedom. Human rights belong to everyone in the world irrespective of their caste, creed, culture, race, gender etc. We are well aware of the rights which are associated with each and every individual because, it is as essential as the air we breathe. Sometimes the violation can stop people from enjoying their rights but they can’t be taken from them for a long period of time. No authority is empowered to eradicate the presence of human right completely. Even if the accused has his own personal freedom and human right. By the passage of time, relevance of human rights showed an empirical surge. They can be often called as offspring of natural law which stands for justice, freedom and peace.
Human rights can be viewed from different perspectives such as moral standards, ethics, principles and guidelines for a healthy living. Man is a social being and he can’t live isolate. When he starts to live in a society, no law making body can make or design the structure of law like it violates the basic human rights. The other side of this point is that he cannot live by violating the general laws of the land. Human rights are not at all a license which he can use for violating the laws. Important rights include:
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Everyone who has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Everyone has the right freely to participate in cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
In Article 29 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is stated that in exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms for others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
Human Rights during emergencies
Certain restrictions on movement are permitted under international law for national emergency reasons. Restrictions imposed by government should be proportionate with delivering human rights. In the present scenario, rights are taken away by the government as a preventive measure for fighting against virus. So, human rights, humanitarian and refugee law should be placed at the center of Covid 19 responses.
United Nations point outs the importance of universal access to healthcare and protection of livelihood. Effective action to reduce the worst impact such as providing health care facilities to slum areas as well as cities equally and reducing the stress of employees and employers etc. can cope up with this situation. Emergency power should not be a weapon to quash the interest of people. Rise of emergencies or pandemic like corona virus can put the government in puzzle with two questions such as whether to protect the integrity of the state or to protect and ensure human rights.
This conflict can resulting several problems in addition to the outburst of the pandemic. So, in order to solve this puzzle government left with no option curtail the rights of people. Fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 of the constitution is curtailed when emergency is declared. But there are some basic human rights which cannot be suspended during any kind of emergency such as right to life, freedom from torture and cruel treatment etc. If it is curtailed civilized life become impossible and meaningless, to be more precise human life become impossible.
In certain circumstances, curtailing some rights find no use. There will be no advancement in pursing the objectives of emergency even if some rights are curtailed. So, in such areas rights should be given to everyone without any failure. By enabling the provision of emergency it should be remembered that the human values must be given its due importance else it will be uncivilized and devoid of humanity.
Covid 19 and Human Rights
The pandemic has adversely affected the lives of many people since it surfaced in China last year. It could bring a life changing impact by making people sit at home which is the one and only remedy left. Many countries work from dawn to dusk for curing this disease and also finding a vaccine to stop it from taking control of our lives. We know our grandchildren and their children will read about this challenge, just as we know about Black Death.
Debate about freedom and human rights is perhaps more now than ever. Restrictions which curtail our basic rights can be grouped as:
Enhanced surveillance1: The authorities make sure that the quarantine rules are followed. They keep on checking that people are not wandering unnecessarily. Areas which are ‘containment zones’ where Covid 19 positive cases are found in large numbers are given more attention. These zones are created to prevent local transmission by prohibiting the entry and exit of people. Entry and exit are fundamental right but this is violated to stop the spreading of the virus.
Control of information2: Information regarding the spread of the virus and many more data which can trouble the people by causing mental stress are not published. Medias require pre-clearance of the government before publishing information.
Right to work: Every person has a right to work and earn for his livelihood. Due to the outbreak of corona virus, it became very difficult to go for work. This problem is affected mainly among middle class and lower class people. People who previously went for daily wage jobs such as hawkers and door-to-door salesman can’t have access to people now. The problem that surrounds them are lack of income and care. Having a dignified life with sufficient income for his job is a basic right. However, grocery Shops, dairy and milk booths, Banks, Print and electronic media, Telecommunications and pharmaceuticals stores were exempted.
ª Right to assemble: people are not allowed to assemble anywhere unnecessarily. They are not allowed to conduct different functions like marriages (beyond the limit), cultural functions, and festivals. Educational institutions like schools, colleges, universities etc. are closed.
Apart from this, security forces has been using excessive force to make people abide by lockdowns. “Shooting, detaining or abusing someone for breaking a curfew because they are desperately searching for food is clearly an unacceptable and unlawful response. So is making difficult or dangerous for a woman to get to the hospital to give birth. In some cases people are dying because of the inappropriate application of measures that have been supposedly put in place to save them. Jails and prisons are high risk environments, and state should focus on releasing whoever can be released, not detaining people” so said by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner. If the rule of law is not given importance, it can create a human right disaster.
Government must not interfere with persons exercising their rights unless and until it is necessary. Each individual should be treated with respect and dignity. Government should have more arrangements for food, sanitation, shelter and other items for people who have been affected by lockdown. Right to livelihood guaranteed in Article 21 shall not be deprived. Right to carry any occupation, trade or business as per Article 19(1) (g) must not be curtailed. Migrant workers from different parts of the country started to head to their homes in fear of losing their lives. So, they should be well treated and steps from police and other task units are necessary to reduce their stress and concerns about the virus.
Fear of losing jobs and salary loomed large on the employees when their workplaces are closed. Department of expenditure and ministry of finance announced that all contractual workers in departments would receive their full pay during lockdown. Minimum standards of relief which provide justice such as food, shelter, drinking water, medical cover etc. should be given to refugees as well as poor people who are more vulnerable to injustice.
Human rights are based on dignity, equality and mutual respect regardless of nationality, religion and beliefs. Authorities need to be open and transparent in their decision making and willingness. Most importantly, government should ensure quality health care without any discrimination. Economic plans in form of helping hand must be introduced in order to save people from being poor. Income security, providing food, health, sanitation and water should be the objectives of good governance along with making necessary restrictions to avoid the rapid spread of this global pandemic. Conflicts between integrity of the state and securing human right should be well balanced. No one should be treated unequally without caring. Government and all other authorities should cooperate with each other to fulfill the needs of the people and fighting against the virus. Any kind of human right violation while dealing the virus can make pavements to a big human disaster.
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