MUMBAI: Faced with a three-week extended lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, several voluntary groups and citizens petitioned the Bombay high court to seek protection of rights of marginalised population in Mumbai and other urban areas.
It claims that state and civic measures for food security, clean water, sanitation and healthcare have left them “vulnerable” in violation of their fundamental rights.
The services of state and civic bodies hit “traditional blindspots” rendering them difficult to come by for certain pockets. Hence the PIL is seeking various measures be directed to ensure social security of the marginalised section. As interim plea it has sought “unemployment security” to those rendered wageless and that “public toilets are kept open and sanitised for use by the homeless and the urban poor”.
The PIL by Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan and others, soon after the March 23 state notification for a lockdown, points to the March 11 notification by the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic and the invocation of wide provisions of the Epidemic Diseases Act by Maharashtra government on March 13 to introduce a slew of restrictions on public gathering.
“Epidemics are not new” said the PIL and cited the Bubonic Plague when the states invoked its powers under the 1897 Act. It said in Covid, an infectious disease, the virus can remain viable for up to three days on plastic and stainless steel and for three hours in aerosols. While the state has taken steps for containment, “fact remains that large swathes of urban population in Mumbai, Pune etc of daily wagers, domestic workers, manual scavenging workers, hawkers…depend on daily wages”.
It said the “Shiv Bhojan Scheme of subsidized lunch be continued in all districts,” and that “PDS shops are well stocked” and to bring “all food Items under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955”.
It wants immediate decentralising of all Covid-19 testing facilities and not to evict any slum occupant under the Slum Act.
In fact, some slum dwellers be moved to vacant PAPs for “home quarantine” of those from high density slums.
Given the exceptional situation, the PIL petitioners have also emailed the HC for a waiver of affirmation of the petition in person. Every petition has to be signed by the petitioner in court to affirm it.
It also wants that the authorities “create awareness among slum dwellers,
daily wage labourers, sex workers, manual scavanger workers, construction workers, street vendors as well as homeless population about the Epidemic and distribute quality masks, gloves and hand wash, hand sanitizers, sanitary napkins as sanitation material free of cost through ration shops.”
The Times of India News App for Latest City News
Start Your Daily Mornings with Times of India Newspaper! Order Now