Every new fiscal year, the global attention is grabbed by one hot topic or the other. Sometimes it begins with a worldwide economic crash, sometimes it sticks to one necessary or unnecessary chain of adamant courses throughout, and sometimes it just repeats itself. In 2020, we dazzled ourselves with a grand opening of reoccurring forest fires. With the world environmentalists working hard to put things back in order, they relentlessly worked and prayed for the global attention to fall on the rapid degradation of our mother Earth. Apparently, their wish came true.
In the month of March 2020, the Covid-19 virus made a crack and seeped into the list of global happenings and altered the ways of all human beings for now and forever. The declaration of a global pandemic was history repeating itself with time, just as accurate as was necessary. As the virus boarded the transportation without an international visa yet traveling across the world, the leaders of all the nations could do nothing but ensure a strict nationwide lockdown. For the virus could kill but not with social distancing (an armour for the exceptionally equipped 21st-century humans).
The Corona Virus Pandemic (2+ years of age now) has severally rattled most of the global superpower nations. It has not only wrecked them in terms of loss of lives but has made melancholy a synonym. In the beginning, the death count was the concern, and the media flooded with unfathomable numbers. Hospitals became our next neighborhood. Doctors and health officials became the heroes of the moment and still continue to be.
With industries falling behind at keeping their strength at par and the global market fluctuating like a thread in a high wind, people all around the world lost their jobs. According to EPFO (Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation), the urban unemployment rate is pegged at 22.72% in this period, while the rural unemployment rate has touched 25.09%. People at some places withdrew themselves from their daily job, fearing the virus, while people were forced to drown in explicit ways in other sectors. The most hit sectors during the pandemic were tourism and hospitality, aviation, MSME (the micro, small and medium enterprises), raw material factories, real estate sector, and more. In India, as many as 41 lakh youths lost jobs since the lockdown was implemented in mid-March of 2020, according to a joint report by the International Labour Organization and the Asian Development Bank.
MIGRANT LABOUR CRISIS
Prime Minister Modi announced a complete lockdown in India on the 24th of March 2020, which was to start at midnight. India was to remain indoors for the next 21 days until the 14th of the following month. Lockdown in India in itself is a separate story. The lockdown got extended to the 3rd of May, further to the 17th, and to the 31st of May.
With the start of the lockdown, all activities not contributing to the production and supply of essential goods and services were entirely or partially suspended. All modes of transport – passenger trains, flights, buses, and cabs were halted, the poor migrant labourers left to scratch their heads and question, what now? The only option left to them was to walk back to their homes.
Hundreds and thousands and lakhs of migrant labourers who had lost their source of bread and butter, with no money left to pay their rents and with no idea of when the lockdown would be lifted, started walking home. ‘India is walking home,’ read an article by The Indian Express. It was such a heart-wrenching sight. With very few to care about them, they suddenly became refugees in their own land. Even the thought of walking the distance of hundreds of kilometers with luggage on the head, children, and elderly parents to worry about makes me shiver; imagining their plight makes me question my existence. It reminded us of the plight of millions of refugees during India’s partition by the colonial administration in 1947 when over two million people had died, and around fifteen million people were displaced.
There are hundreds of tales about the migrant labourers who walked back to their homes. A Bihar girl cycled 1200 kilometers from Gurugram, NCR, to her home in Bihar carrying her injured father. Another being, a pregnant woman who was walking from Maharashtra to Madhya Pradesh delivered a baby on the road. The most horrible one, sixteen migrant workers who were walking towards their home state Madhya Pradesh, fell asleep on the rail track and were crushed to death by a freight train.
Data shows that over 300 migrant workers died during the lockdown with reasons ranging from starvation, suicides, exhaustion, road and rail accidents, police brutality, and denial of timely health care.
CRIME AGAINST WOMEN
The lockdown due to the pandemic saw a scary uptick in domestic violence cases. For instance, Tamil Nadu Police reportedly received 2,963 complaints regarding domestic violence in April alone. There are two significant factors for this surge. Most men are at home, either working from home/without work OR in fear of losing their jobs. Data shows that domestic violence is directly proportional to unemployment. The fear and insecurity of these men cause stress at home, and as a result, unfortunately, women become the victims of this stress. The second reason is the non-availability of liquor during the lockdown period, causing frustration among those men who are habituated drinkers. There was a similar increase in sexual and gender-based violence in West Africa during the 2013-16 Ebola outbreak. The frontline covid-19 warriors (health workers) are occupied with combating the pandemic, leaving little help for domestic violence victims. The situation shows that epidemics leave women and girls more vulnerable to violence.
The above discussed is only the tip of the iceberg. The predicament of the refugees, sex workers, neglected sexual minorities like the eunuchs is far from imagination. The daily wage sector is the worst hit during the pandemic. Construction site workers, carpenters, plumbers, cart pullers, etc., have little idea as to what now.
The humanitarian crisis is nothing new to mankind. But, this pandemic has compelled us to ponder about our very existence – an invisible virus has locked the entire world down, and our hunger for name, fame, and money still doesn’t cease to fade. What are we suitable for if our very being is of no help to a fellow human being?
Belonging to the legal fraternity, it is our utmost moral duty to defend and protect people’s fundamental human rights and liberties. The decorated Article 21 of the Great Indian Constitution, which gives us the fundamental Right to Life and Liberty, should not just be there in the bare act but needs to come to the rescue of a humanitarian crisis. The Pandemic just doesn’t seem to end with different variants coming every year and it is the Law Maker’s, Judiciary’s, and the executive’s duty to show a level of empathy towards its citizens and work towards resolving the humanitarian crisis.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME, DO LET ME KNOW.
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