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Human Rights Concerns During The Pandemic: A Discussion

The COVID-19 pandemic unbridled an unexpected economic crumble and humanitarian cataclysm in India. The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has exhibited a country with public health and economic challenges. The ongoing pandemic has already left an unexpected and critical impact on the healthcare system. It can result in the most destructive effects of government policy responses are not taken into consideration. The most stringent county lockdown has already affected the economy and forced millions into hunger and poverty, but it did not stop the transmission.

The authors will research the pandemic's impact on various sectors as well as how those spheres now are and have been affected, Additionally, the author will attempt to anticipate how these practices may be improved as well as the pandemic's aftermath.

Introduction
Science and technology have revolutionized our everyday lives and the environment, transforming contemporary society; any rational society would profit from these innovations to process; science whirling around democratic decision-making has grown enormously in recent years.

The nation is experiencing an unexpected period, a pandemic that has created problems for every economy. The legal industry is in jeopardy as a result of the issue. The right to a speedy trial is a fundamental intrinsic right that includes the conviction of a criminal person and the acquittal of an innocent person. Delayed justice is the most severe type of denial of justice. Justice cannot be perceived to be served if a speedy trial is not in place. The concepts of 'Life' and 'Liberty' contained in Article 21 of the Constitution have a broad scope. It is not only about the existence but also about the right to a fair and speedy trial.[2]

Individuals must be given a reasonable and fair trial to end miscarriages of justice and ensure dispensation. An affordable and fair trial entails a rapid and speedy conclusion.[3] Justice should not only be done, but it should appear to be done, and litigants must have faith in the justice system, which is shaken when courts spend an excessive amount of time to deliver the verdict.[4]

Martin Luther King rightly states:
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The Indian judicial system has the most unresolved cases. Covid impedes the delivery of justice and adds to the backlog by 19%, crossing 4.4 crores[5]. When there is a need for justice and not supplied appropriately, it is the greatest injustice done to the person. Due to Covid-19 and the shutting of courts, followed by virtual hearings, the backlog of cases has expanded, resulting in individual grievances.

'Justice delayed is justice denied is a legal adage that states that if equitable redress is offered to an aggrieved party but not provided in a timely way, it loses its effectiveness, just as having no remedy at all does. Based on the factors outlined, access to justice falls under the purview of Article 14 of the Constitution. Anita Kushwaha v Pushap Sudan[6] notes that the state must establish an effective and timely adjudicatory procedure accessibly. Furthermore, the adjudication procedure must be expedited.

Because of the epidemic, the three-tiered judicial delivery system has gone virtual. Every project is vulnerable to criticism, and this one has been attacked by attorneys and advocates, resulting in a delayed migration to virtual courts. It should be underlined that it is the only path out of the epidemic to bring justice. The use of virtual courts will minimise the number of cases that are pending. Adoption of changing and new technology necessitates careful planning to guarantee that justice is administered in accordance with the legal procedure.

Engineers should design software compatible with the local court system, and advocates and judges should get training. Several flaws were discovered during the virtual delivery system, including defective network and connectivity issues. The critical point that needs direct human connection should not be addressed virtually. Delivering justice is a human endeavour comprised of ethics, morality, compassion, wisdom, and loss.

The pendency of the cases has increased over the years, where 87% are in the subordinate courts.[7] Even Supreme Court has over 65,000 pending cases as of January 2021.[8] Further, there are 45,12,800 pending cases in the High Courts, out of which 85% have been pending since the last year. Over 2,89,96000 cases are pending in various subordinate courts of the country; the latest official data shows that 80% have been pending since the last year.[9]

The cause for the cases' pending status is the delay in filling judicial officer vacancies. In the lower courts, around 6,000 judicial officer positions are vacant. Appeals from lower courts fueled the supreme Court's increasing activity. There has been a rise in the number of Central and state laws for underfunding of the courts.

The Supreme Court works 188 days every year, while the highest court works a minimum of 2 25 days. A pivotal point to make here is that people have grown more conscious of their rights and the states' responsibility to citizens, which is why they have begun to contact the courts in the event of a breach.

Covid-19 arose when the country had already exceeded the threshold due to a large number of outstanding cases. Covid-19 was introduced in India at a time when courts were already considering digitising and expediting E-courts. E-courts were initially considered part of the National e-government strategy in 2006 when e-courts were deployed in district courts. Before the outbreak, the Supreme Court app was already available, and it was used to interpret judgements into nine regional languages.

Physical hearings and court appearances were avoided owing to the risk of illness transfer caused by the epidemic. An e-court service app was also established, which provides information about cases filed in District or High courts.

E-courts are fairly widespread in nations such as the United States, Singapore, and others. In these nations, e-court is an endeavour to reduce excessive crowding in physical courts and the suspension of proceedings. The judiciary was under pressure and had a responsibility to reconcile the individual right to obtain justice with the right to public health. Due to the epidemic, all courts began to work on a limited basis.

The parliamentary group concluded that while virtual courts have significant drawbacks, they would eventually replace regular courts. One problem that has come before the courts is that virtual courts need tech-savvy lawyers and advocates. Furthermore, attorneys and advocates would be better equipped to deliver their arguments in physical courts since gestures and emotions are essential.

Health Care: Repercussions Of Pandemic On Indian Healthcare System

The individual's "right to life" is recognised as an intrinsic right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. India has the world's lowest healthcare spending. This point may be expanded upon by referencing data from the WHO Expenditure database 2016, which indicates that India ranks 170th out of 188 countries in terms of domestic general government spending on healthcare as a percentage of GDP[10].

The 2017 National Health Policy's objective was to "transform the country's healthcare system by coordinated policy intervention across all sectors and to broaden prevention, promotional, remedial, alleviating, and rehabilitative aids offered by the public health sector with a concentration on standard.[11] However, the scheme's stated goal is universal health care following the recommendations of NHP-2017.

It continues to fall short of covering the whole population and all health costs. Numerous states have been registered under PMJAY, including Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, but the irony is that private hospital admissions continue to outnumber public hospital admissions. Government finances are being used to subsidise the private healthcare market, where funds are multiplied or even tripled.

Even though, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 41,000 Ayushman Bharat Centres have been created, offering health services to 8.8 crore people[12]. Ayushman Bharat beneficiaries, on the other hand, opted for private hospitals for COVID-19 care due to a lack of trust in government-run health facilities[13].

"The safest defence against any disease is a robust healthcare system." The onset of the pandemic has had a negative effect on India's healthcare system. Over the last few decades, there have been major reforms and developments in India's healthcare system. It has also become one of the major industries in terms of income and jobs. The Indian healthcare sector has failed because of the pandemic, with inadequate hospital beds, ventilators, and air supplies, drug shortages, and a rise in mortality rates.

If little is done, the situation is expected to deteriorate. The private healthcare industry accounts for 60% of patient care and has also faced difficulties related to regulatory reforms, cost increases in human capital, and other requirements for providing healthcare services.

Given the current situation, emphasis should be put on prevention measures that rely primarily on laboratory services, patient support, and public hygiene. The effect on healthcare facilities is the primary concern of this pandemic. The problem should be resolved by announcing aid programs for underdeveloped areas.

Only a healthy and educated populace allows for the establishment of a peaceful and prosperous society. It has already instilled dread and served as explosive fuel to a roaring fire; dissatisfied patients and their relatives, hungry media are the usual precursors to violence against doctors. The majority of doctors are now unwilling to encourage their children to pursue this once-revered profession.

To enable doctors to perform fearlessly, it is critical to instill trust and devotion in them. Furthermore, violence against healthcare workers has escalated. A study was done across India over time, and the results indicate that 49 incidents of violence occurred, with the most occurring in New Delhi, followed by Karnataka. Additionally, 43 of 49 instances were recorded in urban areas, whereas only 12% were recorded in rural regions.

The majority of cases were recorded in places where healthcare staff conducted surveys and screenings. The violence also targeted ASHA employees. The majority of violence was verbal, accounting for 60% of it, while the remainder was physical. The perpetrators were either members of a crowd, individuals, or patients' families.[14]

Food Security: Implementation Hurdles Of Covid-19 On Food Security

As for the population, most of the people live in rural areas. Due to the large percentage of the country's labour force being non-formal and earning below-average salaries, an individual's ability to fulfil their basic needs is significantly diminished in India. Widespread job loss due to a pandemic and low wages before Coventry nineteen, agricultural wages, and joblessness worsened the worldwide pandemic, and the lockdown has escalated the nation's chaos. Additionally, starvation and hunger conditions are highly variable, even in prehistoric times.

The Covid-19 pandemic is threatening India's food supply. It has affected all four facets of food supply, availability, stability, and consumption. Covid-19 has had a long-term effect on people's food intake, especially children, resulting in malnutrition and posing a danger to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

There is no official data on the state of deprivation in the region. Still, a study commissioned by the Centre for Sustainable Jobs at Azim Premji University reported that 77 per cent of the households consumed lesser food than they did previously, and 66 per cent lost work[15]. Additionally, all of those who said that they had never gone without food said they had reduced their intake and were only consuming one meal a day.[16]

Inadequate diet and malnutrition were still prevalent in pre-covid-19 India. The cessation of several public programmes, including such anganwadis and mid-day meal schemes, that aided in people's access to food, nutrition, and health care, has also exposed many people, particularly women and children, to malnutrition.

One such effective government social welfare programme is the Midday Meal Scheme, initiated in 1925 for deprived children in the Madras Municipal Corporation. State governments took the initiative to implement midday meals in primary schools, with Tamil Nadu being one example. K Kamraj, the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, was the first to implement it in 1962 in Chennai.

A programme that began in late August 1995 intending to boost primary education by growing the school's overall enrolment and attendance rates, this programme was expanded to include upper primary classes in 2008-09. Recently, a survey conducted by the HRD Ministry confirmed the popularity of the mid-day meal programme, stating that 92 per cent of children enrolled in government schools' profit from the programme, while 80 per cent of parents surveyed accepted that the programme increased attendance[17]

While the Supreme Court decided that children receive mid-day meals in schools and supplemental nutrients from the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), pregnant women must continue to receive cash transfers or home deliveries during the lockdown. With food spending accounting for a sizable portion of the poor's overall expenditure, low wages have also impacted food intake.

Another crucial intervention currently is MGNREGA. In areas where a significant number of migrant labourers have returned to rural areas, and there is a labour shortage, MGNREGA will play a critical role in creating jobs and stimulating rural demand by placing wages in people's hands. Numerous steps must be taken to address the issue of post-covid food security. There is a need to ensure that poor populations who are now experiencing food scarcity are involved in food distribution policies. With the displacement of migrant labourers, there is a possibility of creating new hotspots for food and nutrition survival.

Food security in India post-COVID-19 would have a major effect on the country's development in various ways. Reiterating this today with necessary and deliberate ingenuity would determine how India moves forward in the future and will need continued focus.

Domestic Violence: Rethinking A Chronic Problem

The pandemic has created difficulties in terms of economy and health and terms of human rights. Human rights, especially women's and children's rights. Before Covid-19, one in every three women worldwide had experienced domestic abuse at least once in their lifetime. Domestic abuse has been raised, but the government has taken no significant action.

The Indian Constitution promises freedom to all people and affirmative action in favour of women and children[18]. Due to the lockdown's lack of checks and balances, women are stuck at home and subjected to physical violence. Throughout the pandemic, the home has been identified as the safest place.

The National Commission on Women registered a continuous rise of approximately 94% in domestic abuse incidents from 23 March 2020 to 16 April 2020[19]. Women are put in a position where external assistance is difficult to obtain. Locked inside their houses, with abusers confined to confined spaces with restricted movement and privacy, they face a threat to their welfare. Abusers are using isolation and abusing their putative powers. This preventive action taken to ward off the virus is, however, posing a threat to women.

To envision a society free of gender-based abuse against women, it is critical to place a lockout on the imagination that hammers away at gender-stereotypical sexism and permanently quarantines and isolates patriarchy. Both misogynistic views must be eradicated from society, and women must be guaranteed the fundamental Human Rights enshrined in the constitution.[20] Heed should be paid on the given report, which shows the top 5 states reporting domestic violence complaints in 2020.[21]

Pandemic To Poverty: Risk And Uncertainty

How are rural Indians defined? The one with an informal workforce is, by reference, impoverished. These individuals have been working in irregular jobs for over a year. The Indian economy was still suffering the slowest growth rate in decades, and the pandemic hit during this period of economic stagnation. The slowing economy has had a significant effect on rural areas, which are home to most Indians. High unemployment, stagnant public investment in infrastructure are both indicators of an economy's health.

India has recently emerged as the country with the fastest rate of poverty reduction. According to the 2019 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index, India lifted 271 million people out of poverty between 2006 and 2016.[22]Comparing this to the situation in 2020: India saw the most significant growth in global poverty. According to a report undertaken by the Pew Research Centre, a US-based think tank, the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic could have doubled India's suffering.

In January 2020, India recorded its first coronavirus case[23]. Since then, confirmed issues have escalated exponentially. In anticipation of this, the Indian government declared a national lockout in 24-3-2020. Millions of people in metropolitan areas saw their jobs suddenly cease, and many workers who moved to these towns found themselves jobless.

After April 2020, the pandemic resulted in the loss of millions of workers in India's organised economy. However, this will only escalate indefinitely through the latest pandemic and into the unforeseeable future. India is a developing country with a sizable informal sector in which workers neglect even the most common forms of social security, such as sick pay. Wealth has been reduced, and long-term unemployment has occurred as a result of the pandemic.

Also, youth people face a job loss, who make up the lion's share of the informal economy. It would also have a long-term effect on their futures, mental health, job development, and neighbourhood well-being.

Covid-19 exacerbated social disparities in urban and rural areas, disproportionately affecting low-income groups. While both the central and state governments recognise the livelihood problem, their recovery packages often stop short of the spending necessary to resolve it.

Transparency In Policies Is Fundamental At Stages Of Pandemic

The nation's legislative depiction includes two main existing fortifications nominated to seek accountability from the executive branch of government. The government and the judiciary are the two entities in question. The legislature has the dual purpose of making laws and challenging transparency from the Council of Ministers, which serves as the governmental executive[24].

Over the entire period of covid, the government's implementations must be transparent Transparency encourages accountability and informs people of what their government is doing.

The government must gather data and exchange and analyse it for citizens to be able to back up administrative decisions. Citizens' roles are essential, and they go beyond just lighting candles. It is critical to provide accurate information to people since they are the most positioned to contribute to the fight against pandemics by being informed, keeping the government responsible, and consistently pressuring it to implement public-oriented, scientific, and open strategies.

Information is an essential tool for policy development, as well as public engagement and decision making. Due to the nationwide lockdown and termination of routine legislative operations, lawmakers have been prevented from carrying out their task of questioning the government's efficiency and preparedness in response to the pandemic.

As a result, the need for structural guarantees to compel the government to be open, prepared, and accountable is more pressing than ever. Proceeding in light of this, an effective and vigilant government, as well as flexibility, is required.

Moreover, CoWin, which opened enrolment to those aged 18 to 44, has come under fire for allegedly excluding those from the other side of the digital divide. According to the Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicator Study, 34.60 per cent of the rural population has internet access.[25] Due to a lack of internet access and a lack of knowledge about how portals operate, the bulk of India's rural population is discriminated against by CoWin, dependent on digital literacy. There is no privacy statement on the CoWin website, even though India lacks a data security statute.

Prisoner's Rights During The Pandemic

The Supreme Court of India took note of the overcrowding in Indian jails during the country's COVID-19 outbreak on its initiative. It directed state governments and union territories to investigate the possibility of granting four- to six-week release to convicts charged with minor offences to decongest prisons.

While isolation wards have grown up in jails around the country, significant attempts toward prison decongestion have begun in various Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and others, in the form of emergency paroles and interim bails to under trials. Furthermore, numerous state governments have restricted jail visits from family, friends, and others for an indeterminate amount of time.

The right to health is not specified in the Indian Constitution to be a fundamental right. However, the right to healthcare services is an integral component of the right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, according to the Supreme Court of India's ruling in Paschim Bangal Khet Mazdoor Samity & Others v. State of West Bengal & Others[26]

Conclusion
The Covid-19 pandemic has a lot to teach us about government policy and healthcare. It draws policymakers' attention to the importance of investing in the right sector. Finally, the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has involved all levels of government, presents an incentive to promote the cause of health in all policies. Only time will say how much the governments and public health community benefit from and use the COVID-19 to create a resilient public sector for health care provision.

Following the pandemic, strategies have undergone significant shifts because of the crisis. The pandemic-induced health crisis poses a significant danger to the Indian economy. There is an urgent need for administrative protections to ensure that the government is still responsible, prepared, and transparent. As a result, an effective and observant legislature and the judiciary are needed, necessitating both agential preparation and methodological agility.

The future should be envisioned as treatment becomes the standard and patients are no longer restricted by geography in their access to care. In the future, hospitals will be well-equipped to provide correct diagnosis and care to patients.

End-Notes:
  1. *
  2. Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar, 1979 AIR 1360
  3. Maneka Gandhi vs Union Of India, 1978 AIR 597
  4. R.C. Sharma v. Union of India (1976 (3) SCC 474)
  5. Pradeep Thakur, 'Covid hits justice delivery 'THE TIMES OF INDIA (April 16 2021) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/covid-hits-justice-delivery-backlog-of-cases-rises-19-in-a-year-crosses-4-4-crore/articleshow/82094172.cms.
  6. Anita Kushwaha v Pushap Sudan, (2016) 8 SCC 509.
  7. https://www.prsindia.org/theprsblog/examining-pendency-cases-judiciary/accessed 15 November 2021.
  8. https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/nation/story/20210208-bogged-by-a-backlog-1763840-2021-01-30/ accessed 15 November 2021.
  9. https://www.insightsonindia.com/2020/08/14/rstv-the-big-picture-pendency-of-case-virtual-courts/ accessed 15 November 2021.
  10. Sharma S, "India Spending More on Healthcare Now, But Yet Not as Much as Others; Here's How Much US, China Spend"(2020) Financial Express accessed 15 November 2021.
  11. National Health Policy, 2017.
  12. accessed 15th November 2021
  13. Kumar P Thakker, "Assessing Impact of COVID-19 on AB-PMJAY (2020) accessed 16th November 2021.
  14. Seshadri LN, Geetha M, COVID-19: A 'Violent' pandemic for health care workers in India, http://doi.org/10.18231/j.ijirm.2020.023/accessed 15 November 2021.
  15. Lahoti R, Basole A, Abraham R, Kesar S, Nath P (2020) The India Forum, "Hunger grows as India's lockdown kills jobs: results of a survey from 12 states" < https://www.theindiaforum.in/article/hunger-grows-india-s-lockdown-kills-jobs> accessed 15th November 2021.
  16. Centre for Equity Studies, Labouring lives: hunger precarity and despair amid lockdown (2020)< http://centreforequitystudies.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Labouring-Lives-_Final-Report.pdf> accessed 15th November 2021.
  17. Sumi Sukanya Dutta "HRD Ministry survey reveals mid-day meal scheme a big success" The New Indian Express< https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/jul/04/hrd-ministry-survey-reveals-mid-day-meal-scheme-a-big-success-1837862.html>accessed 16th November 2021
  18. The Indian Constitution, 1950, art. 14.
  19. India witnessed steep rise in crime against women amidst lockdown Economic Times (17 April 2020) accessed 16th December 2021.
  20. The Indian Constitution, 1950, art14, art21.
  21. With Covid-19, comes the "Shadow Pandemic": How the surge of domestic violence gripped India's women in 2020( 24 November 2020) <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/irrational-economics/with-covid-19-comes-the-shadow-pandemic-how-the-surge-of-domestic-violence-gripped-indias-women-in-2020> accessed 16th November 2021
  22. Niall Mc Carthy, (2019) "India lifted 271 Million people out of poverty in a decade" Forbes.
  23. M.A Andrews, "First confirmed case of COVID-19 infection in India: A case report" (2020) IJMR < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7530459/> accessed 16th November 2021.
  24. Ambar Kumar Ghosh, "India: Governmental accountability during pandemic" (2020) ORF < https://www.orfonline.org/research/india-governmental-accountability-during-the-pandemic/> accessed 16th November 2021.
  25. Apar Gupta and Anushka Jain, "Left out of CoWin: Technocratic approach prioritises data collection over vaccine equity" Indian Express, Delhi, accessed 16th November 2021
  26. Paschim Bangal Khet Mazdoor Samity & Others v. State of West Bengal & Others 1996 SCC (4) 37, JT 1996
Written By: Modit Johar, 4th year Student at Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi (Mail: [email protected])

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