India on the brink of Hunger Crisis during COVID-19 Pandemic, warns ICJ Briefing Paper

The Indian government has fallen short of its obligations to guarantee the right to food during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ICJ said in a briefing paper released today.

India went into voluntary quarantine on March 22 2020 and then a nationwide lockdown from March 24 2020. The Indian authorities have indicated that the lockdown will continue until at least May 3 2020. Informal sector workers, and others, who ordinarily survive on meager and unreliable daily wages, have lost access to regular income since March 22 2020 and have, at best, limited access to government support.

The Global Hunger Index 2019 ranks India as suffering from a “level of hunger that is serious”. As a result of COVID-19, an estimated 400 million informal sector workers in India “are at risk of falling deeper into poverty during the crisis” according to the International Labour Organization. COVID-19 has resulted in loss of livelihood for millions of people in India. Its impact has been particularly acute for informal sector workers, many of whom are internal migrant workers. Existing vulnerabilities to food insecurity in India are compounded by long-standing social and structural discrimination based on caste, religion and gender. Several million persons, including informal sector workers living in deprived urban and rural areas lack access to adequate food, as well as information about the availability of community kitchens.

The ICJ has previously called on the Indian government to ensure the protection of the rights of internal migrant workers, many of whom are stranded in intolerable conditions.

The briefing paper published by the ICJ sets out in question and answer format some of the human rights concerns that have arisen from the lockdown in the context of right to food for people living in poverty. It answers the following questions:

  • What are the principal concerns regarding the right to food faced by people living in poverty in India since the COVID-19 lockdown started?
  • What are India’s legal obligations to guarantee the right to food?
  • What right to food issues does India’s COVID-19 response raise?
  • What does the International Commission of Jurists recommend?


Download the Right to Food Infographic here.


Maitreyi Gupta, ICJ India Legal Adviser, t: +91 77 560 28369 e: maitreyi.gupta(a)

Frederick Rawski, ICJ Asia-Pacific Director, t: +66 64 478 1121; e: frederick.rawski(a)


India-Right-to-Food-COVID19-Briefing-Paper-2020-ENG (PDF)

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