- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- GS-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources
Prioritising the right to life
Context: The majority of India’s working population is today reeling from the impact of multiple crises: a health emergency; massive job losses, declines in incomes from work; and significantly increased mass hunger and worsening nutrition.
Survey by Hunger Watch
- Even after lockdown was lifted last year, two-third families reported eating less than they did before the lockdown, and a reduction in healthy food.
- For a quarter of the families surveyed, incomes had fallen by half.
- It also found that hunger was higher in urban India compared to rural.
Judiciary, Hunger & Right to Life
- The Supreme Court on May 13 directed the Centre and the State governments of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to provide free rations without insisting on ID proof to all migrant workers and to run kitchens providing free meals twice a day.
- The directive shows that the apex court acknowledged a hunger crisis in the country that needed urgent state action
Shortcomings of above direct:
- It did not extend the facility to the country as a whole;
- It did not extend the facility to cover cash payments by the state besides meals and ration;
- It made the facility a state largesse rather than a right.
- Had SC recognised a universal right to livelihood as the basis for its verdict, deriving from the right to life, the above three lacunae would have been overcome.
Vaccine Policy & Right to Life
- Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is essential for defending one’s right to life
- Government must respect everyone’s right to life and must make the vaccine equally available to all irrespective of the recipient’s capacity to pay.
- India is making people (aged 18-45 years) pay to be administered these vaccines in private clinics. Contrast this to US (most privatised medical systems) where vaccines is provided for free to all
What went wrong with India’s vaccine policy?
- Government did not ensure adequate production through compulsory licensing of more producers
- Government did not order enough vaccines.
- It reneged on its responsibility to provide these vaccines to State governments.
- It introduced differential pricing, forcing State governments to compete with each other and with private clinics to buy vaccines.
- It allowed price rise by Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India.
State needs to take a range of measures that prioritise the right to life, which also remains the surest way of initiating assured (and equitable) economic recovery
- Monthly cash transfer, of about ₹7,000 per household for at least three months to those without regular formal employment, over and above the provision of free meals and rations.
- Expanded production and central procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, and distribution to States for free immunisation to all;
- Increased resources to the Integrated Child Development Services to enable revival and expansion of their programmes
- Making the MGNREGS purely demand-driven, with no ceilings on the number of days or the number of beneficiaries per household
- Covering urban India with a parallel MGNREGA like scheme that would also cater to the educated unemployed.
- A 1.5% wealth tax levied on only the top 1% of households will be adequate to fund the above measures of government.
Connecting the dots: