~Eden De Horta (Editor, ISLR)
The pandemic currently witnessed by the world is novel, unprecedented, and seemingly relentless as it observes no geographical boundaries. In these times, various administrations all over the world need to adhere to safety and healthcare laws. Though the Constitution of India is silent on the term and subject of ‘disaster’, the legal basis of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 is Entry 23, Concurrent List of the Constitution: Social security and social insurance as well as Entry 29, Concurrent list: Prevention of the extension from one State to another infectious or contagious diseases or pests affecting men, animals or plants.
The stated object and purpose of the Disaster Management Act is to manage disasters, including preparation of mitigation strategies, capacity-building, and so on. The definition of a “disaster” in Section 2 (d) of the Disaster Management Act states that a disaster means a “catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes…”. To address the current epidemic outbreak, the Central government has included the Covid-19 outbreak as “Notified Disaster” as a “critical medical condition or pandemic situation”. Various terms have been used and probably fallen on lay mans’ ears for the first time in the span of one year.
A few of these include ‘lockdown’, ‘essential services’, ‘quarantine’, ‘Section 144 (Indian Penal Code)’, ‘curfew’ and so on. Most of these terms find their origin in these safety laws of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987. These acts try to establish a structure to administer, control and regulate such situations faced by the country.
Witnessing the state of affairs currently– the lack of oxygen, the hospital fires, the lack of availability of vaccines and to add to that, the elections being held despite of the second wave of the virus hitting really hard; the administration needs to revamp the laws and infrastructure available in the second most populated country in the world. There is a necessity for –
- Administrative and Political co- ordination and organization (issue of migrant labourers, availability of food, relief camps, availability of vaccines, etc);
- Effective implementation of the existing laws – Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987;
- The Courts of the Country should be efficiently functioning to heed to the needs of the people through suo moto cases and PILs; and
- Transparency with the funds allocated towards healthcare and the pandemic.
Individually, we can adhere to basic norms provided by the World Health Organization in safeguarding ourselves and those around us.
Lastly, let us use this time for self-growth but also realize and act on the environment around us. It is our moral duty to speak up in these times, words have their impact if said in the correct way and at the correct time. Let’s have purpose and not profit as the goal in our voice.