UNITED NATIONS, Jun 04 (APP):UN experts Thursday called on the Indian Government to urgently comply with a Supreme Court order to ensure the wellbeing of more than 100 million internal migrant workers suffering hardship after coronavirus measures forced them to travel long distances home, many on foot.
“We are appalled at the disregard shown by the Indian Government towards internal migrant laborers, especially those who belong to marginalised minorities and lower castes. Instead of ensuring the protection of their rights, the Government has failed to address their dire humanitarian situation and further exacerbated their vulnerability with police brutality and by failing to stop their stigmatization as ‘virus carriers’,” said UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, and on extreme poverty, Olivier De Schutter.
“We hope the Supreme Court order will be promptly implemented and help to dramatically improve the situation of internal migrant workers. Many are stranded in intolerable conditions, hungry and without shelter,
after losing their income and being forced to vacate their residences by their landlords,” the experts said in a statement released in Geneva.
The Supreme Court has ordered the Government to register them, ensure that they can board a train or a bus free of cost, and provide them with shelter, food and water until they reach their homes. Railway companies are to ensure trains as requested by the Government.
Many internal migrants have also been assaulted by police for violating the 24 March lockdown orders, which had been issued abruptly for the general population and ignored the difficulties of vulnerable persons to comply.
“While we applaud the Government’s efforts so far to provide “relief packages” for people living in poverty, and to schedule extra train rides, these have been clearly inadequate and insufficient due to the vast majority of internal migrant workers not qualifying for relief packages, and the lack of coordination among state governments for the transportation of internal migrants,” the experts said.
“The scale of the COVID-19 crisis in India is testing the Government’s commitment to protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of society. By making sure that internal migrant workers urgently receive the necessary assistance during this crisis, in compliance with the order issued by the Supreme Court, it will give the Government the opportunity to show its willingness to comply with its responsibilities under human rights law.”
The experts’ call has been endorsed by Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri; the Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, Dainius Puras; and the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes.
The experts have also conveyed their concerns directly to the Government of India, a press release said.