The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is alarmed by the fallout of the national health emergency – caused by the coronavirus pandemic – on the poor and vulnerable, particularly on daily-wage laborers and workers who rely on the ‘gig economy’ to keep their households afloat.
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.
The Human Rights Commission is sorely disappointed with the economic policies of the incumbent government, which has failed to deliver for the majority population. It is time to shift priorities, from subsidizing rich individuals and institutions in the name of stabilization and growth, to putting the wellbeing of ordinary citizens at the centre of any policy planning.
The commission demands that immediate cash and food transfers be organized 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, the Human Rights Commission said in a statement.