They say the crisis was the most acute for minority groups such as Dalits, informal workers
Academics from the Social Science in Humanitarian Action Platform on Friday called on the government to protect the human rights of the poor and marginalised sections of society during the ongoing COVID-19 surge.
“In the unfolding disaster, which recently passed 20 million reported COVID-19 cases, human rights, basic services and life-saving supplies must be prioritised for India’s poorest and most marginalised who are experiencing a COVID ‘stress multiplier’. The warning from researchers is based on evidence from the first wave in 2020 which identified the compounding impact the pandemic has on existing vulnerabilities for the most marginalised groups because of inadequate access to basic essentials — from food to water and sanitation, employment and health,” the academics said in a statement.
Reviewing the impact of the first wave, the academics said the crisis was the most acute for marginalised and minority groups such as Dalits and informal workers.
“Although the current outbreak appears far more pervasive with high infection and mortality rates across the population, including the middle-class and elites, researchers warn that so far, reporting has centred on India’s cities and the full scale of the impact on rural areas is so far unknown,” it said.
The academics suggested immediate action to break the cycle in the short-term, greater transparency regarding COVID data and more robust processes for effective responses in the long-term.
Professor Lyla Mehta, Professorial Fellow at the U.K.-based Institute of Development Studies and co-author of the SSHAP briefing, said: “In India’s first COVID-19 wave we saw how the pandemic was politicised to target minority groups, suppress dissent and undermine constitutional values. It’s essential that discriminatory practises are halted, and that basic provisions, medicines and vaccines are made freely available to all.”
A research fellow at the institute and co-author of the briefing, Dr. Shilpi Srivastava said: “The scale of lives and livelihoods lost now in India is overwhelming. For the most marginalised groups we know that the pandemic exacerbates existing inequalities and vulnerabilities and without support their futures will be in peril. They must be placed at the centre of future recovery plans and their voices, experiences and needs be put at the forefront of policymaking and preparedness plans.”
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