Don't extend lockdown, says Right to Food Campaign

Don't extend lockdown, says Right to Food Campaign

Representative image. Credit: PTI Photo

With just a week to go for the COVID-19 restrictions to go, the Right to Food Campaign (RTFC) has urged the government not to extend the lockdown beyond May 3 saying the social and economic consequences of continuing such blanket measures are "too high and cannot be justified".

The RTFC said it hoped that the government has used the current lockdown to prepare the health system to deal with the spread of COVID-19 in times to come. It said the government must now focus on putting in place systems for vigorous identify, trace, test, isolate, treat strategies to be followed.

"However, it appears that many state governments are looking at the occurrence of even a single case to declare ‘hotspots’ and extend ‘sealing’ whereas the increase in cases is only to be expected with easing movement restrictions. Even people who were able to manage during the initial phase of the lockdown are now falling into distress," it said in a statement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be holding a video conference with chief ministers on Monday to review the progress achieved in the fight against COVID-19 and to elicit their views on lockdown. Some chief ministers are of the view that the lockdown must be extended beyond May 3.

Arguing for not extending the lockdown, the statement said the lockdown has strengthened the policing of regular lives of the people and the government should turn its face against “immense humanitarian crisis” affecting the vulnerable sections.

It said people in search of food have had to face “extreme police brutalities” during lockdown, while migrant workers wanting to secure their right to food and return to their native places have been treated with “acute inhumanity”.

"Even people who were able to manage during the initial phase of the lockdown are now falling into distress. We insist that the social and economic consequences of continuing such blanket measures are too high and cannot be justified. The right to a dignified life of the people cannot be threatened at any point of time, more so during this global pandemic," the RTFC said.

It said the lockdown has caused tremendous economic distress, especially for the poor. With more than 90 per cent of the workforce being in the informal sector, people are getting into a situation where they do not have enough resources to even be able to afford basic food items, it added.

"The relief measures announced by the state and central governments have come late and many, including the most vulnerable, are excluded from them. These relief measures are still largely inadequate to duly address the food crisis in the country," the statement said.

Quoting reports that at least 270 people have died due to hunger, exhaustion, state violence, suicides and the inability to access healthcare during lockdown, it said healthcare infrastructure is out of bounds for several sick people due to their inability to reach these facilities as well as many of them remaining non-functional.

They also demanded that the government must arrange safe and sanitised modes of public transport for the migrant workers to return to their native places.