Currently, India is suffering from the world’s worst coronavirus crisis, recording more infections per day (around 350, 000) than any other country since the pandemic began. According to the international media, hospitals running dangerously low on supplies, experiencing shortages of hospital beds, oxygen, and medicines.
The government’s handling of the crisis has caused widespread criticism across India. In response to that, the Indian government ordered nearly 100 social media posts to be taken down. Most of the content targeted had angrily criticized the Indian government and its management of the renewed nationwide public health crisis. Uttar Pradesh state’s chief minister has denied oxygen shortages and warned that charges would be brought under the National Security Act against anyone who will try to spread fake or misleading information about the COVID-19 situation.
Courts repeatedly have criticized the Indian government for its failure to adequately address the pandemic. “How is the government so oblivious to the reality on ground? You can’t have people die because there is no oxygen,“ the Delhi High Court said during a hearing. In addition to that, the chief justice of the Madras High Court stated that if the government had made proper plans during the last one year, the present COVID-crisis could have been avoided.
The Czech Helsinki Committee (CHC) expresses its concern about the Indian government’s attempts to control information. A blunt censoring of free speech will ultimately limit effective communication and suppress important information. Instead, the government needs to take immediate steps to ensure everyone gets essential medical care as well as medical goods and services.
Another issue we would like to address is overcrowding in prisons. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged governments to reduce the number of people in detention and prevent high rates of infection. However, jails in India remain overcrowded.
The CHC urges the Indian government to release prisoners at high-risk infection, such as the elderly, people with disabilities, and pregnant women. Individuals with minor convictions can be placed under house arrest instead of jail to prevent further spread of the virus.
Furthermore, we call on the Indian government to stop censoring information and instead take immediate steps to ensure individuals‘ right to health is not violated. The government must provide everyone with necessary and affordable health facilities and services.
The Czech Helsinki Committee