Source – The Hindu

Swarna Latha R., a practicing lawyer of Madras High Court, expresses her opinion on the untold sufferings of the inter-state migrant labourers and the responsibility of the government for their safe return and rehabilitation.


In the wake of Corona induced lockdown, while the elite was hitting vessels and burning candles in balconies, the desperate migrant workers have been forced to flee the cities and take up the long walk home to survive the pandemic. One look at the dailies will tell us the sordid tale and untold sufferings of the hapless inter-state migrant labourers. Their yearning to go back home and the lack of possibility of integration with the designation state due to shutdown of public transport compelled the inter-state migrants to take up their long journey on foot. 


Several gory incidents of innocent workers, men and women with infants and children boarding trucks like cattle and also the death of these marching migrants succumbing to hunger and heat reveal the widespread apathy and discrimination of the policymakers.  Bereft of social security benefits and no labour legislation to protect migrant working class, they are completely dependent on their employers for their livelihood. The present lockdown has made hunger and relief the need of the hour.  If they remained still, they died of the disease or died of hunger and poverty. If they chose to retreat, they maimed and starved unto death unable to complete their journey home.


Why did the Government lose sight of the plight of the floating population? Had they become invisible? Is it because they belong to the most vulnerable section of the unorganized sector? Do the elite and the middle-class migrants face a crisis the same way migrant working class do?  This reverse migration is again a representation of the class struggle between the haves and the have-nots. Are we moving from a Democratic welfare state to a draconian feudalistic state? If not, the Government which brought Indians working overseas through special flight arrangements, turned a blind eye to the walking inter-state migrants? Is it the rule of law or rule of the rich? Is it not a severe blow to the equality jurisprudence embedded under Article 14 of the Constitution?  


In announcing the lockdown without prior notice, the central Government had invoked the Disaster Management Act, which overrode state governments’ powers. But the onus of transporting and rehabilitating the miserable inter-state migrant workers was shifted to the State Government. The Central Government washed off its hands with a total disregard for these innocent people. Neither the sending states allow and arrange for the safe return nor did the receiving states welcome the retreating population. Many have died of exhaustion or become victims of road and rail accidents as they tread thousands of kilometres on foot. Is it not the responsibility of the District Collector to make necessary arrangements for their safe return and rehabilitation? 


The Indian Supreme Court, renowned for the effective exercise of its epistolary jurisdiction, absolved itself of Constitutional duty of protecting the rights of the people. Hearing the Public Interest Litigations challenging the inhumane treatment of stranded workers, the Supreme Court didn’t relent to pass any effective order. The unmoved Supreme Court remarked with a high point of insensitivity, “it was not possible for the Court to monitor who is walking and who is not walking. How can we stop if they sleep on tracks? ”      

However, the stories of hardships faced by the marginalized stirred the sympathetic consciousness of the High Courts in India. The Madras High Court called the string of pathetic incidents, a human  tragedy and referring to the Aurangabad incident where 16 migrant workers were killed by a gushing train. The High Courts of Bombay, Gujarat and Delhi also did their bit by holding the State Governments responsible for the rehabilitation of the migrant labourers.

After severe criticism for charging fare for transit, the Central Government aided their relief and repatriation, through Shramik Special trains and free bus services. Though 3840 Shramik trains were accelerated from May 1, death of 80 persons enroute was reported. Corona did not Kill them; Starvation did. Who will bring the voices of these invisible citizens to the forefront? A scathing letter unsigned by the senior advocates of the Supreme Court pointed out the indifference of the Supreme Court and wrote that the current migrant crisis is symptomatic of how the Constitutional promises of equality, life, freedom and dignity have been totally ignored by the Government in passing arbitrary executive orders. 

While so, the empathetic Supreme Court of Nepal has upheld the dignity of the migrant workers and rightly ordered that if there was a way to facilitate the commute of the people so willing to return to their native places, then the state should do everything at its disposal. Further, to ensure food and medical facilities enroute and also to explore the possibilities of rehabilitating the migrant workers.

Better late than never. At last, the Supreme Court took Suo Moto cognizance of the matter and issued notice to the Government that the administrative lapses cannot be ruled out and also directed the Government to transport them back to their native villages by providing shramik trains within 24 hours of the request. The top Court has also ordered to specify the schemes of employment of these migrant workers post lockdown.         


As per the 2011 census, there are 65 million inter-state migrants, of which a third are workers. Many of the stranded workers could neither afford to get one square meal a day nor the benefits of public distribution system.  It is this desperation that is driving these migrant laborers to undertake the arduous and bizarre journey. The Convention on the Protection of the Rights of  All Migrant Workers and Members of their families recognizes that ‘the State Parties concerned shall as appropriate consult and co-operate with a view to promoting sound, equitable and humane conditions in connection with international migration of workers and members of their families.

In this respect, due regard shall be paid not only to labour needs and resources but also to the social, economic, cultural and other needs of migrant workers and members of their families involved, as well as to the consequences of such migration for the communities concerned. The acute state of these migrants today is only due to the disregard and neglect for them during normal days. Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 mandates the contractors who employ more than five migrant workers to obtain a license after registering at both the ends. However, this doesn’t apply to employers employing five or less migrant workers. Had there been any welfare scheme in each state which accommodated this highly mobile workforce, India would not have witnessed the mass exodus and an enormous number of hunger deaths.  Inter-state migrants lose even their entitlement of Public Distribution System when they cross the borders of their native state as it’s made available only to permanent residents in a state. The ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme refashioned by the Central Government as a relief measure for migrant workers, also covers only a minuscule of migrants as most of them do not hold the card in hand.  


It’s imperative upon the Government to enact equitable policies for inter-state migrants in terms of labour policies, medical facilities, hygiene, education and social welfare. It’s high time that the Government comes up with a comprehensive migrant-specific labour welfare legislation making it mandatory for the employers to register their names in a portal extending the benefits of social security to them as well. Nevertheless, the lives that starved unto death in the fight against Corona will ever be etched in our memories as a black mark in the history of the largest Democratic country in the Government. 

Swarna Latha R. is a practicing advocate at Madras High Court.

IMPORTANT – Opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IJOSLCA.


Prateek Joinwal, a 3rd year law student at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata analyses the gross human rights violation faced by the displaced migrant workers due to COVID-19 in India.


The pandemic caused by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (‘2019-nCoV’) has compelled States to implement policies targeted towards curtailing the pernicious manifestations of the virus. Likewise, in its bid to prevent community transmission of the 2019-nCoV, the Government of India had implemented a nationwide lockdown on March 24, 2020. Ever since the first phase of the lockdown was enforced, the newspapers were inundated with reports of migrant workers walking several miles en masse from regions within the National Capital Region (NCR) to their hometowns.[1] Even the third phase of lockdown has not shown signs of any improvement in the predicament of the migrant workers; for, while the first phase was marred by the helplessness with which thousands of migrant workers were forced to march homewards, the third phase is marred by the visuals of the same workers protesting in front of the railway stations.

Rather unsurprisingly, several reports have revealed that migrant workers – international as well as within a country – have been especially vulnerable during this 2019-nCoV crisis.[2] The quagmire faced by such workers is not merely limited to the facet of mobility in the midst of a nationwide lockdown but is interlinked with the overarching violations of the basic human rights of these workers, who are often dubbed as the ‘nowhere people[3] in our society. There have been instances where some of these workers have been denied entry in their native places out of fear that they might be infected[4], in other cases they have been made the victim of hate speech which has militated against their possibility of coming forward for screening.[5] The crisis of the workers was further exacerbated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order on April 07, wherein, it refrained from interfering with the decisions taken by the Government vis-à-vis the migrant workers amid the 2019-nCoV lockdown.[6] 

It has been argued that migrants’ specific patterns of vulnerability often lie at the intersection of class, race and status; since migrants are overrepresented in low-income and discriminated minorities, and encounter a multitude of challenges linked with their lack of entitlement to health care, exclusion from welfare programs, and fear of stigmatization and/or arrest and deportation.[7] This blog piece is aimed towards highlighting the plight of these workers and engender a discourse on the gross human right violations incumbent during the State imposed lockdown. Part I of this paper elucidates the basic rights of the migrant workers and how the same have been encroached by the State and its beneficiaries. The discussion shall culminate with the concluding remarks, along with providing some measures to ameliorate the stance of the migrants, in Part II of the paper.

  1. Analyzing the paradox: Migrant Workers and Human Rights.

The World Health Organization (‘WHO’) had declared the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right, in 1946.[8] Additionally, while the ICESCR stipulates the Right to Health as an international legal obligation, the U.N, High Commissioner for Human Rights had urged the Indian State to ensure that measures to respond to the pandemic are “neither applied in a discriminatory manner nor exacerbate existing inequalities and vulnerabilities”.[9] Previous epidemics have shown us that stigmatizing viral transmission only further places populations at risk and reduces access to care. Along similar lines, the WHO Director-General T.A. Ghebreyesus has urged for a “whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach” by the States while tackling the 2019-nCoV.[10] 

It has been observed that migrant workers have not been accorded the same status as other members of the community, leaving them in a precarious situation vis-à-vis curing the spread of the 2019-nCoV.[11] It is unfortunate that poor working and living conditions, marked by abhorrently deplorable access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, have become a grim reality for all the migration workers.[12] Often, these workers are denied the right to an adequate standard of living, including housing owing to which they are mandated to live in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions, with limited or no access to health services.[13] Their predicament has only worsened in the period of lockdown, with migrant workers being placed at risk from the impact of the pandemic due to the harsh containment measures, poor working conditions and the exploitative labour systems.[14]

Even though Article 19(1)(d) and (e) of the Indian Constitution guarantees them the right to move as well as reside and settle in any part of India, their citizenship rights have nevertheless been confined to the mere legalistic entitlement to an identity without much access to the more substantive social and economic rights. The same has shown to keep them at the periphery of the political and social paraphernalia, which constantly tends to deny or overlook their existence.[15] The question which arises at this juncture is whether the right to life and dignity guaranteed under Article 21 has any meaning for these workers whose lives have been rife with the anathema of state repression?

  1. Policy Recommendations for an Inclusive Framework: The Way Forward?

In order to effectively curb the outbreak of the 2019-nCoV, it imperative that displaced populations are provided with access to infection prevention and control measures, along with integrating the community of migrant workers within the framework of the national health-response processes. While the Government had implemented a relief package of 1.7 trillion rupees for the vulnerable populace on March 26[16], it is evident that the same has not been effective in ameliorating the stance of the migrant workers within the Indian demographic. Thus, it is quintessential for the Government to look into the recommendations UNESCO-UNICEF and the Working Group on Migration for ending the plight of the workers displaced during the lockdown. 

Additionally, the Government should work towards paying the pending wages for all work done by these workers under the MNREGA and expand its scope to those forced out of work by the lockdown. It is unfortunate that the displaced populations, including the migrant workers, are often the first to be stigmatized and unjustly blamed for the spread of a disease, yet they are also among the most vulnerable people during a pandemic—to both the virus itself and the measures enacted to effectively control it. Our country should also consider taking interpretative cues from other nations who had addressed a similar quagmire in their battle against the spread of the virus. For instance, Portugal had temporarily accorded full citizenship rights to every migrant and asylum seeker within its borders, which allowed the displaced populace to get the benefit of the country’s public healthcare regime.[17] 

On similar lines, even migrants in Thailand have been entitled to 2019-nCoV screening and treatment procedures irrespective of their legal status; with the documented workers being covered under the ambit of the country’s ‘Migrant Health Insurance Scheme’.[18] Thus, in its endeavour to tackle the pandemic while upholding the sanctity of the rights of the displaced populace, our State must incontrovertibly undertake additional social protection measures or widen the ambit of the current social security schemes so as to alleviate the rigours of those who are at the risk of being disproportionately affected by the crisis.

Prateek Joinwal is a Third year law student from West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata

[1]Anand Mohan J., As capital sleeps, migrants keep on moving — and getting stopped, The Indian Express (May 16, 2020, 6:04 AM),

[2]Fasani Francesco & Mazza Jacopo, A Vulnerable Workforce: Migrant Workers in the COVID-19 Pandemic, Publications Office of the European Union 1, 2-3 [2020].

[3]A.K. Ghosh & A.R. Chaudhury, Migrant Workers and the Ethics of Care during a Pandemic in R. Samaddar (ed.) Borders of an Epidemic COVID-19 and Migrant Workers 91-92 (Calcutta Research Group 2020).

[4]Krishnadas Rajgopal, Coronavirus lockdown | Migrant workers should not be prosecuted, says Supreme Court, The Hindu (June 09, 2020, 11:25 AM),

[5]Ananya Tiwari, Delhi: Before train ride, Endless lines at Screening Centres, The Indian Express (May 21, 2020, 2:27 AM),

[6]Shruti Mahajan, Migrant Workers’ plight during Coronavirus Lockdown: Will did not interfere in government decision for few days, CJI SA Bobde, Bar and Bench (April 07, 2020, 12:20 PM),

[7]Lorenzo Guadagno, Migrants and the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Initial Analysis, 60 Int’l. Org. for Migration 1, 5 (2020). 

[8]Andrea S. Christopher & D. Caruso, Promoting Health as a Human Right in the Post-ACA United States, 17 AMA J. Ethics 958, 959-61 (2015).

[9]COVID-19 Lockdown: U.N. Human Rights Chief Expresses Concern About Migrant Workers, The Wire (April 03, 2020),

[10]Ling San Lau et al., COVID-19 in humanitarian settings and lessons learned from past epidemics, 26 Nature Medicine 647, 648 (2020).

[11]Frayer Lauren, Coronavirus Lockdown Sends Migrant Workers on A Long and Risky Trip Home, National Public Radio (March 31, 2020, 7:02 PM),

[12]S.N. Roy et al., Migrants in Construction Work: Evaluating their Welfare Framework 5 (Centre for Policy Research 2017).

[13]Pramod K. Nayar, The Long Walk: Migrant Workers and Extreme Mobility in the Age of Corona, 4 J. of Extreme Anthropology 1, 2-4 (2020).

[14]R.B. Bhagat et al., The COVID-19, Migration and Livelihood in India: A Background Paper for Policy Makers 6-8 (International Institute for Population Sciences 2020).

[15]Adhir R. Chowdhury, Govt has been groping in the dark on the migrant issue. This must change, The Indian Express (May 22, 2020, 9:49 AM),

[16]Asit Ranjan Mishra, Sitharaman announces 1.7 trillion packages for the poor hit by the lockdown, LiveMint (March 27, 2020, 12:45 AM),

[17]Mia Alberti, Portugal gives migrants and asylum-seekers full citizenship rights during coronavirus outbreak, CNN (March 31, 2020, 2:22 AM),

[18]Pramod K. Nayar, supra n(13).

IMPORTANT – Opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IJOSLCA.



Shubhangi Soni and Ayush Pal, both Second year law students from Faculty of law, Banaras Hindu University, discusses the effect of suspension of labour laws amidst the covid pandemic on Indian labourers.

It pours when it rains, are the conditions with the Indian labourers amidst this lockdown which have hit them hard. At this time of crisis when thousands of migrants are travelling back to their place bare feet by barren highways, empty stomach many state governments decide to suspend most of the labour laws in the name of boosting the economy. The plight of Indian labour is such that the decision has acted as the last nail in the coffin of hopes of these labourers.

As during the lockdown the economy has seen a great downfall, states decide to boost it up, the way that they find is the suspension of labour laws as the various state following the lead of Uttar Pradesh where 35 out of 38 labour laws exempting prohibition of bonded labour and regulations regarding the protection of women and children, have been suspended for 1000 day.[1] The state of Madhya Pradesh has also suspended the most of the labour laws exempting certain specified safety and security clauses and other states like Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand have also made many changes as well increased the working hours from 8 to 12 hours[2] and sent for the ascent from the president as there are no particular laws which are called labour law. 

The subject “Labour” lies in the concurrent list of Indian constitution under list 22, 23 and 24, which means both state and union government have the authority to amend or suspend the labour laws. Nobody knows what the striping the labours of their basic rights of sanitization and safety will lead to. If labour laws are removed, most of the employment will turn from formal to informal, and wage rate will also take a plunge to the ground. As well, the government has not provided any measures regarding the grievance redressal for the violation of their basic rights.

The ordinance passed by the Uttar Pradesh government regarding the suspension of laws is so ill drafted leaving a room for judicial scrutiny for example, as per the ordinance the factories act have been suspended but (1) it is not clear what will happen to the PF which is accumulated and at what rate the interest will be paid, (2) the award of industrial tribunal only become enforceable under the Industrial Disputes Act, which is suspended! It is evident that none of this has been thought of; the details are missing. This will only give rise to the legal conflicts between the employer and employee. In the end, the employee will have to suffer as the right to form trade and union is also suspended, leaving no other option than to being exploited by the hands of the employer.

The governments advocate their steps in the name of surging the economy. Still, as per the economic theory, the incentives taken by the state governments are ill-trained and retrograded steps. The main aim of these incentives is to open the market for investment, as the lower, the government intervention on the name of rules and regulations, the more the investments. This is an ideal situation. In the present scenario, there are other factors affecting the market such as wage cut of employees; as a result, people have less money to spend reducing the demand which affects the production, that will further reduce the investment. It will only lead to the exploitation of the labour and will result in the natural form of the market and will bring down the wages.

Indian labour laws were often criticized as ‘inflexible’ due to legal requirements, as this has constrained the growth of the firm, and others have also argued that there are too many laws, unnecessarily complicated and not effectively implemented forming a base for corruption. If India had fewer and easy to flow labour, law firms would be able to expand and contract. Is this the long-pending reform of labour laws? Expecting to create a flexible form of the market which will result in investment and expansion of the firms which will increase the employment benefiting the labourers. Experts have objected the view as it will not boost hiring and spur economic growth as there is already too much chaos in the market, firms are shaving off the salary of their employees, the overall demand has fallen. Which firm will hire the employee right now? As the intention of the government was to restore more and more jobs than instead of increasing the shift duration from 8 hours to 12 hours they should have allowed two shifts of 8 hours in this way more number of people can be employed. 

Radhichika Kapoor of Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) has stated that measures are taken by the government “are creating an enabling environment for exploitation”. It is because far from reform which essentially means improving the status quo it has deprived the labours of its basic rights and also drives down the wages.[3] Who keeps a check on the firms from not firing his existing employees and hiring them at a lower rate as the government has removed all the provisions binding firms not to fire workers.

Eminent labour economist Dr Shyam Sundar believes that it is an extremely retrograde step that pushes the rights and safety of India labour force at risk. Moreover, these measures are going to result in fall of wages will only further deteriorate the existing conditions of the formal market and economy which will backfire the recovery process.[4] ‘The time for taking such severe steps is not right; we are moving in the exact opposite direction of downfall this will dwindle the economy further.’

When Indian states decide to suspend the labour laws for mushrooming the economy on the other hand in the time of difficulties for supporting their labourers and surging their economy, countries like Vietnam has provided $70/months for workers on unpaid leave and also aid to employers by offering funds and workers with no unemployment insurance and securities to get $40/month for three months. Bangladesh government also launched a package of $89.45million for workers who have lost their income, and UK government has decided to pay 80% of usual wages of employees laid off for four months.[5]

India being a founding member of the International Labour Organisation and Indian parliament, has ratified 47 conventions of the ILO[6] which are deliberately related to working hours, labour inspections, equal remuneration, compensation and cases of injuries as should comply with the norms of the convention and if not then ILO should also intervene in this vandalized situation

The government in this situation of disarray has to understand that as the case behind the downfall of the economy was the sudden and unknown, outbreak of the disease novel virus COVID-19, and the measures are taken to control the epidemic and fight the disease were different, which were never considered in the history. Similarly, now the economy also needs a different perspective which includes every section of society as all have suffered equally whether employees or employer, entrepreneurs, to surge the economy.

Shubhangi Soni and Ayush Pal are Second year law students at Faculty of law, Banaras Hindu University

[1]Beta Sharma, UP Govt’s Suspension Of Labour Laws Could Greenlight Bonded Labour. Here’s Why, HUFFINGTON POST, (May.8,2020),

[2]Prashant Krar; Several states extend working hours from 8 to 12 hours in factories, ECONOMIC TIMES, (Apr. 24, 2020),

[3]UditMisra, Nushaiba Iqbal, What labour law changes by states means, THE INDIAN  EXPRESS. (May 16, 2020),

[4]Kundan Pandey, COVID-19 labour laws dilution: ‘Neo-liberal character has eroded welfare state’, DownToEarth,(May 12, 2020),

[5]Iqbal supra note 3, at 3.


IMPORTANT – Opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IJOSLCA.


Shreya Chauhan, a 3rd year Law student from Amity Law School, Delhi deliberates upon the issues faced by migrant labourers and the violation of their human rights amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


The pandemic COVID19 is continuing to have widespread influence on workforces globally, but migrant workers are bearing the chief impact of the crisis. Inadequate and packed living conditions, limited access to healthcare, and exploitive labour systems are few of the factors which have made workers disproportionately at the risk of exposure to infection. Many of the migrants are not able to afford the rides back to their states. Making their situation worse, many state governments under the fear that the returning migrant workers would increase the virus spread further has left them stranded. Although the quick response to the pandemic has reduced the widespread infection, it has also created concerns about aggravating existing inequalities and vulnerabilities.


Today our nation and the entire globe are battling an incurable disease which till date has no specific vaccines or medications. COVID-19 is a disease that has put the whole world into a standstill. Talking about its effects on humans groups, the pandemic has caused a significant impact on our hardworking labourers. They travel from one state to another to secure their families with food and clothing.

To save the citizens of the country our Prime Minister abruptly announced a lockdown on 25th March[1] which got extended as the effects of the deadly viruses began to spread. The extended lockdown while desirable for India trying to reduce COVID-19 spread, but it underestimated how vulnerable, and unorganized the migrant workers in the country continue to be. This extended lockdown made the workers of the country worried that they are going to be struck for three weeks, and their daily wages would suffer a lot.[2] They were stuck at the place where they have no money to feed themselves, and they can’t reach out to their families at this time. 


A large number of migrants began undertaking their journey to their village or state by foot helpless, and disappointed.[3] Lack of cash in pockets, being jobless, and with public transport that has been shut down, hundreds of migrants had to cover hundreds of miles on foot back to their home villages with some dying during their journey. According to a media report, a total of 140 people died in road accidents across India since the lockdown was announced. 30% of them were migrants who were walking or trying to reach their home states by concealing in buses or trucks.[4] 

There are children of these workers who are left behind by their parents who undertake employment elsewhere. These children are dependent on remittances sent back to their homes. In many parts of India daily allowances is the primary source of income for the nourishment of the families.[5]  Then there are those children who migrate with their parents when they leave the city for their job. Because of the lockdown, their parents’ pending wages will only exacerbate their living.  They might have a long-lasting impact on their health and overall well-being.[6] 

A vast majority of migrant families in India are employed in the agricultural sector.[7] This extended lockdown may cause the risk of nutritional insecurity in these families. Nutritional insecurity causes adverse health effects in the short term as well as long time.[8] The workers are also haunted by the fact that they might get infected and if they leave one place they might not be allowed to re-enter it by their landlords or employers who have given them places to live. A labourer from Uttar Pradesh stranded in Gujarat allegedly committed suicide as he was in despair that he did not have work and he could not return home.[9] 

On May 7 2020, 16 migrant workers who took their journey to their homes were killed by goods train. These innocent migrant workers were resting at a train track after walking a day from Jalna to Aurangabad.[10] While in Bengal and Bihar migrant workers staged a protest demanding transport facility for travel to native places and the supply of adequate rations during the lockdown.[11] There are situations where the migrants have registered themselves in rented accommodations but got no information about their transport from the government.[12] 


The Human Rights of migrants include the right to work and receive wages that contribute to an adequate standard of living.[13] Along with these rights, migrants have an indivisible and universal right to return home whenever he wishes.[14] Unfortunately, these rights of workers are being violated unintentionally due to COVID 19 outbreak. The lockdown announced by the government has put the workers in a kind of hostage situation where they can’t earn wages or even return to their homes. We must realize that along with the economy of the country, this outbreak has an impact on the socio-economic sector of the country too and takes measures for the same. There were reports of police officers beating migrants for breaking quarantine and dousing migrant labourers with disinfectants which is very degrading and exploitive of human rights of these workers.[15] Forcing the labourers to stay can be inferred as bonded labour treatment. Hence, a proper commitment to save the Human Rights of these vulnerable groups is required urgently from the government.


Ministry of Home Affairs has authorized state governments to use their disaster response funds amounting to Rs. 29,000 crore to aid migrant workers.[16] The funds had helped states to support these workers by giving them shelter, food, and medical support. However, this is not enough as there are still workers who are stranded from their homes.[17] 

However, many states have exhibited higher standards of human values when they extended their help to migrant labourers in their respective states, Kerala, Telangana, and Odisha[18] are few of them who have been successful in bringing their migrant labourers in their state and taking proactive steps to address the issues of its migrant workers. The Jharkhand Government launched[19] ‘chief minister’s special assistance scheme’, a mobile app to help with the registration of stranded labourers. But the present situation demands fair implementation of schemes and distribution of funds. State Governments must have complete data of the migrant workers.[20] Only then they would be able to negotiate better. 


The labour force of migrants in the construction and manufacturing sectors is essential for economic development in India. The migrant workers are completely excluded from the safety nets as they are entirely exposed to the infection and other accidents.   The predicament of these migrant workers must be treated as a humanitarian crisis requiring crucial attention. The state government has to effectively develop mechanisms to transport these migrants back to their villages. Interstate coordination to exchange data is essential at this time.

The Central and State government have received an order from Supreme Court[21] regarding the plight of migrant workers according to which no fare for train or bus shall be charged from migrant workers, along with food and accommodation for workers who are stranded. An active, orderly, and planned management of migrants is essential at this point of time. 

A fresh focus to bring these labour workforces within social, economic, and health security protection. A great start can be made by providing them with social security under Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maandhan.[22] Along with this, there must be a political willingness to protect the rights of labourers for ensuring their welfare. Only by ensuring social protection, food security, health, education, financial inclusion of these labourers the goals of migrants’ well-being can be achieved. 

Shreya Chauhan is a 3rd year Law student from Amity Law School, Delhi

[1]Myupchar, PM Narendra Modi announces a national lockdown for 21 days starting midnight of 24-25 March, FIRST POST(June 10, 2020,9:16 PM)

[2]Nirvikar Singh ,Covid19 let the workers go home, Financial Express(April 22, 2020, 2:56 AM),

[3]Charmi Mehta,  Data on sugarcane in Maharashtra after floods shows why accurate assessment is critical, DOWN TO EARTH (April 2, 2020)

[4]Zeba Warsi, 42 Migrant Workers Died in Road Accidents While Trying to Return Home during Lockdown: Report, News18, (May 7,2020,4:17 PM),

[5]Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation & The World Food Programme, Review of Global and Indian Food Security Analysis , FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY ANALYSIS, INDIA, 42 (2019)  

[6]Divya Ravindranath, Understanding the implications of the Covid 19 Lockdown on migrant worker‘s children, THE WIRE (May 5,2020,8:36 AM),

[7]A. K. Gupta, D. R. Arora and B. K. Aggarwal, Sociological Analysis of Migration of Agricultural Labourers from Eastern to North-Western Region of India,23,INDIAN JOURNAL OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS, 440, (1988)

[8]Jung Sun Lee, Edward A. Frongillo, Jr, Nutritional and Health Consequences Are Associated with Food Insecurity among U.S. Elderly Persons, 131 THE JOURNAL OF NUTRITION, 1504 (2001)  

[9]DP Bhattacharya, Migrant worker in Gujarat commits suicide, Economic Times(May 8,2020,7:46 AM),

[10]16 Migrants crushed to death by a goods train in Maharashtra, EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE (May 8, 2020, 09:47 AM),

[11]Mohammad Iqbal, COVID-19: Migrant workers from West Bengal and Bihar protest in Jaipur, THE HINDU,(May 12, 2020,2:12PM),

[12]HT Correspondents, States prepare to bring migrant workers home, The Hindustan Times (May 1, 2020,  04:49AM),

[13]INDIAN CONST, art 43

[14]International Convention on maritime search and rescue,1979 , Chapter 2.1.10 

[15]Dutee Chand, Distressed by the plight of migrant workers: UN human rights chief on India lockdown, THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS, (April 3, 2020,1:56AM), 

[16]Press Information Bureau, On directions of the Prime Minister, Home Ministry approves release of Rs 11,092 crores under State Disaster Risk Management Fund to All States, PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (April 3, 2020, 7:10 PM )

[17]Omar Rashid, Coronavirus lockdown : With no work or food, workers brave the long march home from Uttar Pradesh, The Hindu (May 9, 2020, 11:51 PM)

[18]Umi Daniel, Down to earth, DOWN TO EARTH, (May 28, 2020, 7:35 PM) 

[19]EHealth Network, Jharkhand: CM launches mobile app to help migrants stranded outside due to COVID-EHEALTH (April 18, 2020)

[20]Santosh Mehrotra & J Parida, India has the resources to care for its embattled migrant workers – but does it have the will?, SCROLL.IN (April 27, 2020, 3:30 PM)

[21]Alak Alok Srivastava v. Union of India AIR 2020 SC 468 

[22]ET, Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan: All you need to know, Economic Times (July 2, 2019, 02.49 PM)

IMPORTANT – Opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IJOSLCA.


Tamanna Gupta, a Third year student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab, reviews various rights accorded to prisoners across the country during Covid-19.


“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until it has been inside its jails, A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”- Nelson Mandela.

Prisoners Rights have been a subject of controversy since the late eighteenth century. Due to COVID-19 being declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and in light of more than 4 lakh deaths worldwide, several steps are being taken to ensure that the rights of prisoners are not hampered. Several jails are resorting to releasing prisoners en masse, while others are testing all the prisoners for COVID-19, and there are plans for setting up centres for testing COVID within jails, as well as plans for setting up temporary arrangements for prisoners who might be affected by COVID-19, as well as to de-congest the prisons. In light of all these developments, it is imperative to look into the various rights accorded to prisoners across the country.


The denial of bail to the several accused arrested due to the Elgaar Parishad Bhima Koregaon case hit the headlines recently. It also brought to the fore misgivings about the conditions of prisoners languishing in Indian jails during the COVID-19 pandemic, in light of the hospitalization of prominent activist Varavara Rao on May 28, after reports surfaced that his treatment at Taloja Jail was unsuccessful. People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) issued a clarion call for ensuring bail to political prisoners, especially sexagenarians, and prisoners suffering from co-morbidities. In a press statement, PUCL stated that ensuring conditions conducive to prisoners’ life and health is a duty of the state.

PUCL also condemned the abysmal prison conditions in India during COVID-19.[1]

The reality of the overcrowding in Indian prisons in the present context is an open secret. The number of prisoners as compared to the capacity of a prison reflect a wide gap, which has been harped on by several activists and organizations, clearly falling on deaf ears of the authorities, until COVID-19 cases started emerging in several prisons across India, prompting prison authorities to launch a haphazardly planned series of actions to ensure the safety of the prisoners.

 The ‘Prisons Statistics India’, released by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), stated

  • More than 4.5 lakh prisoners were lodged in various jails across India, by the end of 2017, with a lodging capacity of 3.91 lakh prisoners.
  • More than 4.33 lakh prisoners (2016) adjusted in the provisions meant for 3.8 lakh prisoners. 

The reason ascribed to the present state of affairs is the swarms of under-trial prisoners, who eagerly await grant of bail or judgment at the hands of the Courts.[2]

Several issues have cropped up, which now challenge the prison authorities such as security and safety in prison, health and hygiene issues, and safety of the prisoners, which cannot be unseen during the pandemic. The jail authorities have taken several measures such as releasing under-trials, aged prisoners, and even setting up temporary jails for housing COVID-19 suspected prisoners.


After the incidents of the spread of COVID-19 in several state prisons hit the headlines, coupled with news and media channels reporting upon the extent and severity of the same due to the inaction of the courts and other authorities, prison officials sprang into action.

  • In Mumbai, the forebodings of Arthur Road Jail superintendent that the spread of COVID would not be able to be controlled in the jail due to the problem of overcrowding came into revelation, after 184 of the prisoners lodged in Arthur Road Jail tested positive for COVID-19.
  • In Jaipur, Rajasthan, authorities have to get the entirety of the prison staff and all inmates tested for COVID-19, after nearly 150 prisoners tested positive.
  • In Agra, Uttar Pradesh, the death of an inmate in Agra Central Jail led to panic and confusion, amidst which 14 other inmates were quarantined and tested for COVID-19.
  • In Ludhiana, Punjab, the first case wherein a prisoner tested positive for COVID-19 was diagnosed at Ludhiana Jail, identified as a 48-year-old woman inmate.
  • In Delhi, cases were diagnosed in Rohini Jail, which led to quarantining several other prisoners.[3]


After the Supreme Court issued directions to ensure the release of prisoners subject to conditions, to ensure de-congesting in prisons, several states have taken steps for the welfare of the prisoners.

 The action taken by each state differed, depending upon the density of persons lodged in prisons, nature of the crime committed, age of the prisoner, etc.

While several states resorted to releasing prisoners en masse, in several instances temporary facilities were created for the relocation of prisoners, and for prisoners who were suspected to be COVID-19 positive. Many prisons turned to test the entirety of the prison staff and inmates for COVID-19.

Releasing Prisoners-

  • In Punjab, 9773 inmates have been set free from jails all over the state, as stated by a government official.
  • In New Delhi, a whooping 3500 inmates were released from three of the centre’s most congested jails-Tihar Jail, Asia’s largest prison facility, Rohini Jail, and Mandoli Jail.
  • In Maharashtra, over 7200 prisoners have been released from prisons all over the state.
  • In Assam, over 3500 prisoners were released.

Temporary Facilities-

  • In Bihar, the government shifted around 4500 prisoners from overcrowded to less crowded prisons; however, no prisoner was granted bail or parole.
  • In Ghaziabad, a temporary facility has been set up at Adyatmik Nagar after a spurt of cases in Sahibabad.
  • Plans are being made to set up facilities at Ghaziabad, Meerut, Bhagpat, Agra and Meerut.[4]

Testing Prisoners-

  • In Kerala, the authorities are now only admitting prisoners out on parole or bail, after the completion of their bail term, only if they test negative for COVID-19. Each prisoner is being tested before re-admission in prison. Prisoners are lodged at quarantine centres or designated hospitals till they test negative for COVID-19, after which they are re-lodged in the prisons, depending on the result.
  • After several cases were tested positive at jails in different states, contract tracing was done, and prisoners were quarantined. In some cases, the entire prison staff and inmates were tested.


Prisoners Rights have been a subject of wide debate and discussion, both nationally and internationally. Several International statutes and covenants lay down rights for the prisoners, such as the United Declaration of Human Rights (1948), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976). Recently, the Mandela Rules (UN Standard Minimum Rules for Treatment of Prisoners) (2015) were drafted by the UN for ensuring humane treatment to prisoners.


In the Indian Context, Prisons Act 1894, recently amended by Prisons (Amendment) Bill 2016, regulates the management, rules and regulation for prisons in India.

While Section 7 of the Prisons Act 1894 protects the Right to Accommodation, aiming at providing for suitable and safe accommodation to prisoners, Section 14, 37 and 39 of the Act, ensures for the presence of a medical officer, reporting of ailments, and presence of hospital within prison premises. Section 39-A, added by the Prisons (Amendment) Bill 2016 states that jail authorities shall be responsible for maintaining basic hygiene in premises. These provisions ensure the rights of the prisoners during the all-encompassing pandemic.[5]


While several measures are already in place in order to ensure that the rights of prisoners are not violated during the lockdown, the government needs to have a pro-active approach in order to ensure the timely de-congestion of jails, re-accommodation of prisoners at alternate establishments, and the courts must ensure that mass testing is conducted within the most crowded jails across the country. Since several cases have already emerged across prisons in the country, courts and prison authorities have to work in tandem in order to ensure that COVID-19 doesn’t spread like wildfire in the Indian Prisons. Till then, one can only speculate upon the state of affairs. COVID-19 should not serve as a red herring for prisoner rights, which shall remain a contentious issue, even in the post-COVID-19 scenario.

Tamanna Gupta is a Third Year Student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab

[1]Sonam Saigal, Denying bail in Elgaar Parishad case to political prisoners is callous: PUCL, T.H India, June 2, 2020.

[2]FP Staff, Indian Jails overcrowded, understaffed, reveals NCRB Report; Most prisoners are under-trials, over 70% of them haven’t studied till Class 10,, (June 11, 2020, 12:49 am),

[3]PTI, COVID-19 Outbreak in Jaipur jail worries authorities, thousands of prisoners released on bail or parole across India, I.T. India, May 17, 2020.

[4]Peeyush Khandelwal, Temporary Jail in Ghaziabad for suspects of Coronavirus cases, H.T. India, April 24, 2020.

[5]Prisons Act 1894, Act of Parliament, 1894 (India).

IMPORTANT – Opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IJOSLCA.


Tanvi Jain, a First year Law student at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar, discusses the legal and social framework to combat Domestic violence as an outbreak of coronavirus pandemic


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the entire globe to a standstill often referred to as “lockdown”. Persistent efforts and legislations are being devised to deal with the analogous crises of economic recession. However, India seems to have forgotten or ignored the psychological and social pitfalls. Domestic Violence is one of the camouflaged consequences of the current situation. National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data indicates that over 30% of Indian women have been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused by their husbands at some point in their lives. The nation already has its women looted off of their opportunity. The lockdown has further left the deceived with no choice however to live under a similar rooftop as their abuser.


India is already ill-famed for having a dismal rank of 112 in the Gender Gap Index of World Economic Forum. The reasons behind the surge betwixt the viral outbreak are deemed to be financial pressures due to unemployment, lack of access to alcohol, looming hunger, and poverty, solitude, etc. Even the World Health Organization asserted that alcohol can be one of the reasons contributing to the increasing severity and frequency of injury. The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres engaged the legislatures of the considerable number of nations hit with the viral fear to make strides in forestalling, warning by asserting, “horrifying global surge in domestic violence”. The National Commission of Women, in April, suggested a 100% spike in the domestic violence cases in India. This was quite obvious since the perpetrator and the victim have to reside under the same roof. However, a greater matter of concern is the dip in the reporting of complaints as compared to the past. The Delhi Commission of Women (DCW) witnessed a decrease in calls related to domestic violence – from 808 during March 12-25 to 337 during April 7-20. While no express end can be drawn, this is likely because of the nearness of the culprits in the house and the dread of further savagery inferable from the endeavours to report.


India introduced the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in 2005. It facilitates protection and ensures remedy to the bracket of victims which encompasses all women who may be mother, sister, wife, widow, or partners living in a shared household. The perpetrators incorporate the husband, live-in partner, male and female relatives of the husband, and the live-in partner. The said legislation only provides monetary relief and damages and is primarily a civil law offering no criminal punishment. However, the entire court proceedings take place according to the Criminal Procedure Code. Hence, apart from taking aid through this act, the victim can resort to filing a suit under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. However, the law, in spirit, has not been successfully implemented. Also, a shift to an inquisitorial mechanism wherein the judge partakes and holds discussions with the Protection Officers, who are the personnel appointed by every state to ensure the safety of the victim and aid in fighting her case, is imperative in the contingency. However, this designation has not been taken seriously, wherein, the government officers appointed on district levels are handed over this function as an additional job. The act even though mandates the solving of the case to be accomplished within 2 months or 60 days, it is unfeasible for the courts already stacked up with pending cases.

In the wake of the said catastrophe, a petition was filed by the All India Council of Human Rights, Liberties Social Justice (AICHLS) in the Delhi High Court. The petition prayed for 11 reliefs in front of the court, urging the court to set about certain measures to control the upheaval. The court ordered the respondents, to take into consideration the petitioner’s suggestions such as extensive publication of awareness through mass media and temporary appointment of Protection Officers, and to come up with their measures. 

The introduction or alteration of mere legislation or a judicial order cannot be averred as the resolution for the proposed issue. There are certain measures which are needed to be adopted by the society and local bodies for the effective abatement of the present massive quantum of domestic violence cases. More than 50 helplines have been started across the nation for this cause, by the police, women welfare bodies, and several non-governmental organizations working for women’s rights safety. However, access to such a resort proves to be weaker when locked up with the abuser himself. Hence, instead of just publicizing a phone number, regular and vigilant checking should be carried out by a qualified appointed Protection Officer. Also, receivers of the complaints have to be well and pre-equipped with remedies for all possible situations, understanding and polite. The National Commission for Women like Spain, introduced a portal, as well as a Whatsapp number for registration of complaints, but it failed to offer any succour to the oppressed women from the economically weaker strata of the nation. 

The shelter homes and care centres established by the government, instead of acting as safe havens, can turn out to be a lethal means of catching and rapid spreading of the virus. Hence, instead of mobilizing the women, the abusers should be put into institutional quarantine accommodation. The Pune Zilla Parishad has decided to put men accused of domestic violence, into quarantine alone. According to a detailed study conducted by Professor Radha Iyengar at Harvard University, police action adopted to fight domestic violence increased the cases of homicides in intimate partners. The police department needs to ensure that FIRs or non-cognizable reports for such crimes are prioritized so that delay in action does not give rise to a further dreadful condition for the ones suffering. The Italian police have already concocted an app simplifying the reporting. Apart from the police intervention, professionals of the likes of psychologists, counsellors, lawyers, and even mediators can prove to be a vital asset in these times. Neighbours can be made entitled to a reasonable reward which may act as an inducement for reporting any such practice in the locality. 

The concept of “One-stop centres” was introduced by the government in 2015 as a part of a Centrally sponsored scheme popularly known as Sakhi. Such facilities should be declared as essential services so that they can continue to bestow help to the victims. Certain informal complaint centres can be initiated in grocery shops, medical stores, banking institutions, etc. A similar approach is being adopted by France, wherein, the distressed are advised to report discreetly at pharmacies, which in turn would report to the police.


COVID-19 is a reality no one expected even in one’s wildest of imaginations. Confinement, as a means adopted to fight the contagion, further sowed the seeds of another setback to the well-being of the masses, i.e., Domestic Violence. The interposition of the police should be considered as a last resort only to be availed after counselling and reporting through helplines does not provide the victims the required help. Rather than relying on an archaic legislation, the government needs to institute a concrete framework facilitating streamlined monitoring at the grass-root level.

Tanvi Jain is a First year Law student at Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar

IMPORTANT – Opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IJOSLCA.