Due to the low availability of vaccines in India, the question of who should get the limited supply, and in what order, has triggered heated public debate. Persons with disabilities are among those who are in crucial need of the vaccine, and paradoxically, they have the most difficulty in procuring it, due to problems accessing registration portals, travelling to vaccine sites, etc.
Unlike many other Indians, LGBTIQ+ Indians don’t yet have equal rights. They, in reality, are still sub-legal citizens. This reflects abundantly in our laws spanning across anti-discrimination, education, sexual crimes and harassment, civil and criminal law, healthcare, housing, the labour code, and much more. Our laws exclude LGBTIQ+ communities and that leaves a huge legislative vacuum. Despite NALSA and Navtej judgments and the contentious Transgender Rights Act, many states remain non-starters.
The second wave of COVID-19 has created havoc in our country. The deadly virus took many lives and left several children orphaned. As per the National Commission for Child Rights (NCPCR), more than 30,000 children were orphaned, lost a parent or abandoned during the period between April 1, 2020, and June 5, 2021
London in August 2020 saw scenes that would not be out of place in a science fiction fantasy. Protestors gathered outside of the country’s Department for Education and rallied to ‘dismantle the algorithm’. The algorithm in question was a statistical model designed to standardise grades for the country’s GCSE A-level examinations (the equivalent of 12th board exams in India).
Amid this pandemic crisis and subsequent lockdown, we witnessed images of millions of migrants returning their homes walking hundreds of kilometres. As per data collected by Union Skill Development Ministry, around 67 lakh migrant workers returned to their homes. The predicament of these migrant workers during the crisis could have been significantly averted if they had a financial safety net to rely on – most had lost their jobs after the lock down had come into effect.
On 27th May 2020, a tragic image of a child playing beside his dead mother made headlines. Unfortunately, this is only one of the many instances, which has brought to light India’s stark class inequalities during the migrant crisis.
The migrant crisis has certainly brought some attention to class inequality in India. However, we must resist the urge to view the crisis only through class. About 16% of the total intra-state migrants in India belong to the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and 8% to the Scheduled Tribes (STs), almost equal to their share in the total population, as per data from Census 2011. It is then plausible that a significant fraction of migrants attempting to return to their homes during the lockdown are SC/STs. These communities are vulnerable on the account of their class and caste.
In the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989, the executive has in many cases not adhered to the text and spirit of the legislation. However, it appears that Courts are going in this direction as well – all in the name of COVID-19.