LAHORE:The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Wednesday expressed an alarm by the fallout of the national health emergency – caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – on the poor and vulnerable, particularly on daily-wage labourers and workers who rely on the ‘gig economy’ to keep their households afloat.
In a statement, HRCP said: “With schools, offices, shops, and businesses locking down, the option of working from home is a privilege available only to white-collar knowledge workers. Even if saved from illness, low-income groups will still contend with acute food insecurity. The lack of adequate social safety nets, such as paid leave and medical benefits, means that the overwhelming majority of workers and their families are especially vulnerable in this crisis.”
HRCP said that it was sorely disappointed with the economic policies of the incumbent government, which had failed to deliver for the majority population. “It is time to shift priorities, from subsidising rich individuals and institutions in the name of stabilisation and growth, to putting the wellbeing of ordinary citizens at the centre of any policy planning.”
The Commission demanded that immediate cash and food transfers be organised for the poor and for daily-wage earners, in addition to ensuring their access to free medical care in these testing times. HRCP also demands that health workers, who are at the frontlines of this emergency, be provided the protective gear they need to do their jobs safely and effectively.
It is not charity, but the responsibility of the state, to ensure food security and access to healthcare for all its citizens.