The National Human Rights Commission has issued notices to the Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh governments over allegations of flouting of COVID safety norms by farmers protesting at the borders against the farm laws.
It has asked then to file within four weeks action taken reports regarding the steps taken to control the spread of COVID-19 infection at the protest sites.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the NHRC said that India is reeling under a "scary" second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and these protesters are not only putting their lives in danger but also posing a risk to the others in rural areas as "potential carriers" of the virus.
"The NHRC has taken cognisance of a complaint that the mass gatherings of protesting farmers, flouting COVID-appropriate behaviour, are against the very rules/norms laid down by the central government and the advisory of the Commission itself as safeguards against the pandemic," the statement said.
Accordingly, the Commission has issued notices to the chief secretaries of Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh to submit action taken reports regarding the steps taken to control the spread of COVID-19 infection at the protest sites of the farmers. The report is to be submitted within four weeks, it said.
"The complainant has also stated that more than 300 farmers have died during this ongoing protests due to several reasons, including COVID infection. The cases of black fungus, etc, are also rising.
"He has sought the intervention of the Commission apprehending that situation may become more worrisome as the farmers, in large numbers, are planning for observing May 26, 2021 as ''Black Day,''" the rights panel said.
Protesting farmers have been camping along Delhi's borders at Tikri and Singhu (Haryana ), and Ghazipur (Uttar Pradesh) since November, demanding the scrapping of the three central farm laws.
Issuing the notices, the Commission has observed that the country is passing through an "unprecedented and scary second wave of COVOD-19, which has already claimed more than three lakh human lives and is still raging virulently in different parts of the country".
"Allegedly, the situation is likely to worsen, day by day due to the increased inflow of the farmers at the sites of protests: they are not only putting their lives at risk but also posing a risk, as the potential carriers of the virus, to the others in the rural areas," the statement said.
It further observed that the central and state governments are "struggling against all odds" to save lives in the face of inadequate health facilities.
"Measures like lockdowns, containment zones and COVID protocols are employed to somehow overpower the deadly COVID, which is now leading to other serious diseases like black fungus, white fungus etc. In these extraordinary circumstances, our sole aim has to be saving human lives," the statement said.
The total tally of COVID-19 cases in India has climbed to 2,69,48,874, while the death count is 3,07,231, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Tuesday.
There are 25,86,782 active cases comprising 9.60 per cent of the total infections.