COVID-19: Assessing the Impact Of Lockdown on Economy and Human Rights

This blog is inscribed by Yashvi Jain.


Coronavirus or Covid-19 is a pandemic as declared by the World Health Organisation. The Government of India has ordered for a lockdown amidst the uncontrollable spread of the virus and the scary fatality rate it has. The major question is that – Is India ready for the luxury of a lockdown?

For most people having a certain standard of living with stable jobs and a roof over our head, the lockdown does not seem to be of a point of concern. Now to look at the majority of the Indian population, about 45-47 per cent people are working in the primary and secondary sector.[1] The Primary and Secondary sector essentially indulge in agricultural, construction, mining and other such activities. Most of these sectors employ a large number of manual labourers who are paid wages on a daily basis. Thus, a day of work lost for them encapsulates that day’s income lost. Most of these people belong to rural areas and are neither well educated about finances nor have any financial stability due to low income.

A complete lockdown for about 30-40 days implies that these people do not earn their wages for that duration but still have to feed their families. So, the lockdown for India, is still a luxury that might be the need of the hour but something that most Indians cannot afford. The hastily and suddenly announced lockdown that was announced by the Prime Minister resulted in over thousands of migrant workers collectively walking back to their homes or taking public transport which essentially defeats the purpose of lockdown that is social distancing. This time of the pandemic has certainly exposed the vulnerable and subjected them to harsh conditions.

Impacts on Human Rights and the Economy

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said “… countries are highly dependent on migrant workers in almost every major sector to help grow their economies – and yet they have utterly failed to protect migrant workers, and treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve”.[2] This sheer disadvantage and the conditions of the migrant workers walking for miles to go back to their homes, without basic necessities of food and water, highlight the gross violation of human rights.

Article 21 of Indian Constitution

The delimiting and expanding scope of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution not only guarantees the Right to life and liberty but also grants the right to livelihood and the right to live with human dignity. [3] Right to Dignity is not expressly mentioned in the constitution but it is held that it falls under Article 21.[4] Article 21 states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”.[5] Human dignity means that an individual or group feels self-respect and self-worth.  It is concerned with physical and psychological integrity and empowerment and is harmed by unfair treatment premised upon personal traits or circumstances which do not relate to individual needs, capacities, or merits.[6]

In the Maneka Gandhi case, the Supreme Court of India interpreted that ‘the phrase personal liberty in Article 21 covers a variety of rights which go to constitute the personal liberty of man.’[7] By the term “life” as here used something more is meant than mere animal existence.[8] The Constitution also guarantees the right to livelihood, social security and protection as implied rights under Article 21. These rights were not upheld, especially in the backdrop of such a crisis where securing these rights were of immense significance. Many of the states are deliberating to do away with labour laws which deal with the working conditions of the labour. All these instances put together, the labourers who are an integral part of the economy have scarce legal recourse and restrictive access to basic health facilities, this enables one to understand that there has been a sheer violation of the most basic human rights of these people in the face of such a crisis.

Furthermore, a lot of businesses are suffering huge losses and thus are not able to pay their employees under them. More so, even domestic workers have run out of their work and salaries as they are also under the lockdown. There have been cases of suicide reported due to the lockdown as the people do not have enough money to survive without earning. This possesses a huge question as the whole economic situation in the country has come to a standstill.

All classes of people are getting affected, negatively, in terms of their financial status which has a direct impact on the spending and real income of the country. As people spend less, demand is also decreased leading to reduction in supplies and the production over all. The decrease in production directly impacts the company’s or factory’s ability to employ more people or in fact pay the current employers. This also gives rise to the problems of unemployment in the country.[9]


The question still remains is the lockdown, probably an important measure to contain the virus, fair to the majority of the population.

Dr. Deepak Natrajan (surgeon and public health consultant), in an interview with Karan Thapar, stated that “lockdown is a hysteria driven pro rich and anti-poor measure which will result in greater human and financial catastrophe than a reasonable down- regulated COVID outbreak itself”. [10]

UNCTAD report of Covid-19 predicts that there will be a global and wide scale recession and a huge financial and economic loss to the developing nations. The report also states that the value of their currencies has fallen down faster than usual. One can interpret that imports will become more expensive and exports will be slow since the production processes will be inefficient due to the fear of virus transmission. This can cause huge trade deficits to the developing nations which might have a negative effect on international trade.[11]

Thus, the Coronavirus will bring about a lot of damage to the economies of all nations affected by the same. It is said to be one of the most deadly viruses to be witnessed after the Spanish Flu of 1918. These tough times have brought into light the violation of basic human rights of the economically backward sections of the society. The judicial system has also failed to do complete justice to this absolute violation of rights, wherein people do not have basic facilities like proper shelter, access to food and adequate water supplies. This raises an important question for us to ponder upon as to why, in evolved and developing countries like India, human rights not guaranteed to all.

[1] Sector-wise contribution of GDP of India, (Feb 8th, 2019),

[2] Gulf: Concerns regarding migrant workers’ rights during COVID-19 pandemic , (Apr 17th,  2020),

[3] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 21.

[4] Jolly George Varghese v. The Bank of Cochin A.I.R 1980 SC 470.

[5] The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 21.

[6] The Canadian Supreme Court in Law v. Canada (Ministry of Employment and Immigration), 1999 1 S.C.R. 497 (Canada).

[7] Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, (1978) 1 SCC 248, at 252-53.

[8] Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, A.I.R. 1963 SC 1295, ⁋ 11.

[9] Abhishyant Kidangoor , Modi’s Hasty Coronavirus Lockdown of India Leaves Many Fearful for What Comes Next, (Mar 31st, 2020) ,

[10] Is it Time to Rethink the Nationwide Lockdown Because of its Impact on the Most Vulnerable and Poor? , The Wire,

[11] UN calls for $2.5 trillion coronavirus crisis package for developing countries , (Mar 30th, 2020),

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