United Nations, April 2 : While India is fighting to stop the spread of Covid-19, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, on Thursday criticised the quarantine measures put in place in the country, saying they stigmatise people.

She "expressed regret at the measures that have the effect of stigmatising sections of society, including migrants, such as the practice in some states of stamping hands of those quarantined in their homes, reportedly to ensure that they stay home, and sticking notices outside the homes of people quarantined," the statement said.

She added, "It is important to weigh such measures against the right to privacy and avoid measures that would unduly stigmatise people within the community, who may already be vulnerable due to their social status or other factors." She has been silent on other places which use electronic monitoring of those under quarantine.

Bachelet also had strong criticism for the impact of the lockdown on migrant workers.

"She was distressed by the plight of millions of internal migrants affected by the sudden announcement of a lockdown," according to a statement released by her office in Geneva.

The statement said, "Without the ability to sustain themselves in urban centres and in light of the almost complete shutdown of public transportation, hundreds of thousands of migrant men, women and children were forced to walk hundreds of kilometres trying to reach their villages and home states. Some have died making the journey." "Supreme Court of India's subsequent instruction on March 31 to ensure that migrants are provided enough food, water, beds and supplies as well as psychosocial counselling in shelters that should be run by volunteers instead of security forces, and that they should be treated in a humane manner," the statement said.

It quoted her as saying, "The Supreme Court's order and its implementation will go a long way to ensuring the safety and rights of these vulnerable migrants. Many of these people's lives have been suddenly uprooted by the lockdown, placing them in very precarious situations." UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' spokesperson Stephane Dujarric highlighted Bachelet's statement at his daily briefing on Thursday.

Bachelet, however, acknowledged, that "the lockdown in India represents a massive logistical and implementation challenge given the population size and its density and we all hope the spread of the virus can be checked." She added, "It is nonetheless important to ensure that measures in response to Covid-19 are neither applied in a discriminatory manner nor exacerbate existing inequalities and vulnerabilities." (Arul Louis can be contacted at arul.l@ians.in and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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