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Survey: Human rights, women's, child rights commissions 'apathetic' during pandemic

By Our Representative

A rapid telephonic survey of the Human Rights Commissions, Women’s Commissions, Child Rights Commissions, Minorities Commissions and Lokayuktas at state as well as Central level has suggested that a large number of them have not functioned during the Covid-19 pandemic, even though it is their job to “intervene and uphold the fundamental rights of the stranded workers and provide them with basic amenities.”
Carried out by Rini Kothari, a final year law student at the Jindal Global Law School (Sonipat) during her internship at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), under the guidance of Venkatesh Nayak, an eminent social activist in order to update the Lockdown Performance Database, a CHRI document, the survey found that 69% of Human Rights Commissions were functioning, and as for the remaining 31%, no records existed.
Pointing out that this was particularly “appalling” as it was the time when overnight tens of thousands of daily-wage migrant workers turned jobless, homeless and penniless, a report on the survey says, “The National Human Rights Commission alone recorded over 2,582 cases in the first three months of the lockdown, indicating rampant violation of human rights.”
As for the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights, which are supposed to look into the matters pertaining to children requiring special care and protection, including children in distress, only 36 per cent them “chose to be functional.” Comments Kothari, this situation existed despite the fact that children belonging to socio-economically backward and marginalised communities “faced dire consequences of the Covid-19 lockdown and many were forced into child marriages.”
Further, the survey says, only 29% Women’s Commissions were found functioning. Even though reports demonstrated that domestic violence cases doubled and were at a 10-year high during the Covid-19 lockdown, and New Delhi alone received around 1,600 complaints from women between March and April regarding domestic violence cases, and the National Commission for Women received more than 300 complaints during the same period.
Coming to the Minorities Commissions, whose mandate requires looking into specific complaints relating to deprivation of rights and safeguards of the minorities and take up such matters with the appropriate authorities, only 19% were functioning.
And as for Lokayuktas the survey said, only 28% were found to be functioning, the survey said, even though these are inquired to inquire into allegations of corruption against public functionaries. It comments, this is particularly strange, as during June, the Anti-Corruption Bureau received 814.2 per cent more cases than the month of March and April.
Carried out in order to assess the functioning of the Central and state commissions during the Unlock 3.0 period (August 1 to August 31), the survey wonders, “It is time we start to question, why were these Commissions even established in the first place? What is the government doing to ensure their proper functioning? Who do the most vulnerable people go to, when they are at the brink of penury? To these invisible Commissions?”

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