Nepal government failed to protect human rights in pandemic. What should it do now?

As per the constitutional provision, the Nepal government is obliged to protect and promote human rights as the fundamental right of people. So, it is the government’s duty to assure the right to people despite caste, religion, language, and ethnicity, and other social, economic, and political factors. The government should guarantee human and fundamental rights in each and every situation. However, the government has not been able to do so in the current situation as the entire globe is facing the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the start of the lockdown, thousands of employees have been stuck inside their houses. They are one of the most vulnerable groups during the lockdown. The working-class people who should manage their meals by working every day are the most affected.  It is difficult and challenging for them to manage food and feed their family. In this regard, the government has failed to facilitate those people though the right to food is one of the most important rights of people.

We have seen people walking a long distance from one place to another by spending several days to reach their homes. Regarding them, the government has failed to help them reach their home and manage proper, healthy and safe quarantine facilities. The government has also failed to assure its presence in the country.

With the start of the lockdown in Nepal, as well as in India, there are thousands of migrant workers from Nepal working in India stuck in the border areas waiting to enter their own country. We can see that some people came by crossing the Mahakali River to get arrested. The government should have safely allowed them to enter and manage here, according to the WHO guidelines. If the government had managed the quarantine facilities as mandated by the WHO and allowed the migrant workers from India after medical checkups, it could have shown its presence. It could have proven that it was serious about the protection of people’s rights while lowing the chance of spreading the virus. The National Human Rights Commission also gave various directives to the government in this regard, but they failed to materialise.

We can hear the news that many people committed suicide during the lockdown. Whether there is a relation between the lockdown and suicide cases is a different case, but certainly, the government has failed to protect its citizens. It is also certain that people are frustrated and tense from the current situation.  If the government provides psychological counselling to such people, their life can be saved.

The right to health is another important human right of people, which is also guaranteed by our constitution. According to article 35 of the constitution, each and every citizen has a right to get health facilities including sanitation and safe drinking water. But, if we consider reality, people have not got even emergency facilities in hospitals. The government should work for Covid-19 diagnosis and treatment, but they should not be done at the cost of other health services.

The scarcity of medical equipment leading to black-market transactions is also against the fundamental right of people. The health workers are the frontline workers fighting against the virus, and even they are not provided proper facilities including protective equipment. Working putting themselves at risk, they may compromise in their service to people.

If we go through the constitution, there are provisions about several fundamental rights, which the state should guarantee. The state’s responsibilities do not change even in this emergency situation. However, the government has failed to heed the constitutional directives.

The government should focus on the fight against Covid-19, learning from other countries, and work to motivate people including health workers, security personnel, media persons, and others who are working against the pandemic from respective sectors. The central government should work for the protection of human rights with collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission, provincial and local governments, and other stakeholders.

Kuikel is currently pursuing MPhil at the Department of Development Education at Kathmandu University.

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Kuikel is currently pursuing MPhil at the Department of Development Education at Kathmandu University.

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