An international NGO, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) claims that India is on verge of a food crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic. The NGO also tried to bring attention towards “discriminatory” enforcement of laws against Muslims and other minority communities during the lockdown. The particular human rights NGO consists of 60 renowned lawyers and jurists from around the world. They released a briefing paper today warning of the food crisis.
Critical Analysis of Measures for Preventing Food Crisis
In the briefing paper, ICJ criticized the Indian government for failing to provide a plan for meeting the food requirements of all people when the nationwide lockdown was announced. They claim the government gave the people a very limited time period to prepare for it. It states, “The Government gave only four hours of notice for the first phase, and only one day’s notice for the second phase of lockdown.” For the reason, it includes various media reports; showing police brutality on workers who were trying to access community kitchens.
Further, it claims that the government has failed in uniform application and enforcement of laws. Muslims have faced severe discrimination. It contains several media reports, as the cases in Delhi and Rajasthan; where Muslim fruit and vegetable vendors were prohibited from entering certain places and were also beaten up. On the other hand, boycott and physical violence against Gujjar milkmen in Jammu, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab also stands documented.
It states, “The failure to enforce criminal law, including the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; for preventing acts of violence and discrimination; and to ensure the protection of food vendors is incompatible with India’s obligation to protect the right to food.”
The paper further states that the informal sector workers and the homeless are facing deep hunger. According to an International Labor Organization estimate; 400 million people in India are at risk of falling deeper into poverty during the crisis.
Obligations of the Government
India is obligated under International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); to protect and fulfil human rights such as the right to food. In fact, even the Indian Supreme Court has protected the right to food as a fundamental right. As a matter of fact, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has requested its member states to ensure payment of wages and income support to workers. It mentions that the government must address the flaws in the implementation of emergency measures, which prevent access to food for people. The NGO asks for better utilization of India’s vast buffer stock of food grains to prevent hunger and starvation.