The coronavirus pandemic has metamorphosed into a hunger pandemic owing to the complete state of lockdown in India. The irony is that the prejudiced bearing of this lockdown is all borne by the destitute be it hunger, deprivation or malnutrition. The foremost inherent human right of a person is to get food categorically; however, in this circumstance, it is being infringed. Moreover, Article 39(a) of the Indian Constitution obliges the states to institute policies which strive to ensure the bestowal of an adequate livelihood on their citizens. But even after copious food schemes imparted by the government to the poor, hunger has materialised as a parasitic tribulation upon the country. This situation of paucity cannot be wholly witnessed as a repercussion of the pandemic but somewhat a manifestation of the prolonged inadequacy of the government to endow the helpless with a reasonable amount of food resources – improper implementation and enforcement of the schemes and laws respectively.
Another facet of this subject is the documentation performing a roadblock in exercising the right to food by the people. A plethora of schemes require ration or Aadhar cards to avail them, on the contrary, the populace of rural areas do not have any of the same and thus it restrains those from making use of essential services like of rations. Though the Supreme Court in K.S. Puttaswamy observed that absence of Aadhar card cannot decide a person’s entitlement to avail a particular scheme, it apparently seems ineffective at such a time. Thus, a stop needs to be put on the current mechanism of providing food, otherwise; it will only lead to much more violations of human rights. For the record, a report released by Oxfam shows that around 12000 people per day may die owing to hunger if a situation like this persists forevermore.
India stands on 102nd out of 117 countries according to the Global Hunger Index 2019 which is quite mediocre, and the lockdown has only worsened the position. A specific number is not unproblematic to give as P. Chidambaram, former finance minister of India, rightly stated that starvation deaths would be never counted with transparency as state governments by no means disclose the upshots of their incapability to ensure the execution of the right to food. This not only specifically violates right to food but, in a wider picture, Article 21, 39(a) & 47 of the Indian constitution, Section 12 of the Protection of Human Rights Act,1993, Article 25 & 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 & 11(2) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These instruments carry a benevolent place for the right to food but lack of apt realization is the prime reason for the ineffectual result of the same.
The Indian judiciary has been dilating upon the broadness of the right to food in many of its rulings, nevertheless, has unable to provide a sanctioned space for it yet. For instance, in Francis Coralie Mullin, the Apex Court explicitly interpreted the right to life not as “animal existence”but living with human poise which consists of all “bare necessities of life”, and is it not evident that food is the most indispensable necessity.
The supreme judicial body, as provided in Article 142, has the absolute authority to direct the states, within the periphery of law, with orders so as to do complete justice. Indeed, the presence of hunger is markedly injustice to the constitution’s likely-looking articles. Therefore, an edict needs to be brought to bear to the government to ascertain non-infringement of people’s human rights at this immediate moment of the pandemic. In fact, the Supreme Court through its landmark decision of People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India & Ors. directed states to treat food schemes as more of legal entitlements. Simply put, it established the right to food as a constitutional right of one; the results have not been up to the mark, though. Currently, the judiciary needs to recall the promising judgments like these and superintend accordingly, perhaps, by taking suo-moto cognisance of human rights issue against the state governments.