May 25, 2024
Syllabus- General Studies Paper 2

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution declares that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.

About Article 21
  • Article 21 is a fundamental right and is included in Part-III of Indian Constitution.
  • It is available to both citizens and non citizens.
  • Supreme Court has described this right as the “heart of fundamental rights”
  • Article 21 secures two rights: The right to life and the Right to personal liberty.
  • Article 21 cannot be suspended during an emergency.
Recent context

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.

However, this would have had more far reaching impact if this verdict had –

  • extended the facility to the country as a whole.
  • included cash transfers besides meals and rations.
  • emphasized on this being a component of Right to Life under Article 21.

These shortcomings are evidence of ignorance towards the right to life seen especially in two cases-

1. Vaccine policy

Being vaccinated against COVID-19 is essential for defending one’s right to life; and since the state must respect everyone’s right to life, it must make the vaccine equally available to all irrespective of the recipient’s capacity to pay.

This can be accomplished only if vaccination is free as in USA,UK etc

It is not so in India. Population in the age group of 18-45 years is expected to be vaccinated at own expense or by respective states.

Moreover, the poor vaccination rate of the Indian population is a result of various shortcomings like- inadequate production, lagging in ordering, differential pricing for states, private clinics etc.

2.  Loss of livelihood

There also has been callousness about the loss of livelihood that has come about during the second wave.

The plight of almost 90% of the workforce, involved in the informal sector has been ignored especially by the policymakers and media. There has been no legal or social protection, no compensation for lockdowns restrictions and economic distress for this hardest hit stratum of society.

How can cash transfers be a better alternative to food grains?
  • it would have shielded people from slipping deeper into hunger and joblessness.
  • And spurred growth, because this money would have been spent for simple, domestically produced goods

Therefore the multiplier effects of this public expenditure would have been much higher.

Way Forward

The government needs to take up measures that prioritize the right to life which are right now complimentary to ensuring economic recovery as well.

  • enabling expanded production and central procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, and distribution to States for free immunization to all;
  • universal access to free food grains of 5 kg per month to all those who require it for the next six months;
  • cash transfers of ₹7,000 per household for at least three months to those without regular formal employment;
  • increased resources to the Integrated Child Development Services to enable revival and expansion of their programs;
  • making the MGNREGS purely demand-driven, with no ceilings on the number of days or the number of beneficiaries per household;
  • and covering urban India with a parallel scheme that would also cater to the educated unemployed.

Question- Discriminative vaccine policy and haphazardly planned lockdowns impinge directly on the Right to Life, especially of the downtrodden. Comment.

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