State machinery has become larger threat than corona pandemic, HR bodies tell India

New Delhi, March 30 : The Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) have called upon India to act with restrain during the lockdown against coronavirus saying that the state machinery has become a larger threat than the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lockdown has left millions stranded, struggling to search for food and water, Amnesty International India (AII) Executive Director Avinash Kumar said in a statement.

“Unfortunately for these people, the state machinery has become a larger threat than the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. This is “unfortunate” and the Indian government must ensure that “insensitivity and brute force be replaced by people-friendly measures in battling the pandemic”, he said.

Kumar said India should respect and protect the rights of those under quarantine and ensure that their basic needs are met, including adequate shelter, food, water and sanitation.

HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly too urged Indian authorities to ensure that everyone has access to food and medical care, and that the poor and marginalized are not mistreated or stigmatized.

“The Indian government’s responsibility to protect its people from the outbreak should not come at the cost of human rights violations,” she said.

Tens of thousands of out-of-work migrant workers are stranded with rail and bus services shut down in the country. “Police actions to punish those violating orders have reportedly resulted in abuses against people in need,” she said.

“Indian police should be ordered to act with restraint while enforcing the lockdown. In several states, photos and videos show police beating people who are trying to get essential supplies. In West Bengal, police allegedly beat a 32-year-old man to death, after he stepped out of his home to get milk,” she said.

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