Social and economic development of underdeveloped & developing countries bringing about an equitable growth eradicating the poverty, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy and providing the poor better livelihood options...
Dear Readers, Please Give Comments, Like and Send in Facebook, Subscribe this via RSS or E mail. Become a follower of this site through Google Friend Connect or Google reader or Blogger.... Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org anything...
Providing an Improved Environment for
Human Rights in The Country(India)
While human like rights institutions the NHRC have a significant
role in the promotion and protection of human rights, the contributions of
civil society actors and the state are just as crucial
An informed discussion on how to provide
an improved environment for human rights in the country, and how to achieve
social justice through human rights is very necessary. Social justice, as the
American philosopher John Rawls
pointed out, ‘is predicated on the idea
that a society can be regarded as egalitarian only when it is based on
principles of equality and solidarity, where human rights are valued and the
dignity of every individual upheld.’ A just society is one which provides a
degree of protection to its weaker, differently-abled and less gifted members.
It is not one where the law of the jungle prevails, where might is right. In a
civilized society, reasonable constraints are placed on the ambitions and
acquisitiveness of its more aggressive members and special safeguards provided
to its weaker and more vulnerable sections. These considerations are basic to
any scheme of social justice and their neglect will brutalize society. In a
limited sense, the right to social justice may be said to be the right of
the weak, aged, destitute, poor, women, children and other underprivileged
persons, to the protection of the State against the ruthless competition of
life. It is a bundle of rights, in another sense it is a preserver of other
rights. It is the balancing wheel between haves and have-nots.
Our Constitution makers were fully alive
to the need for providing safeguards to the weaker sections of society as is
evident from the Preamble to the Constitution and Part IV of the Constitution,
that is, the Directive Principles of State Policy. Social justice has become a
pressing issue across the world, especially in the larger context of
globalization, which is altering traditional roles and relationships between
states and their citizens and throwing up multiple challenges to the
realization of socio-economic justice, whether in the form of the devastating
financial crisis, the rising cost of essential food commodities, or the growing
influence of transnational bodies such as the WTO, IMF, World Bank and
Human rights have been recognized as
standards of achievements and norms of behaviors of all members of society, in
particular the Government and its agencies. Human Rights form the foundation of
society, and without its observance, society would disintegrate. Society can be
maintained only by protecting and promoting dignity of human beings.
The basic Charter of Human Rights is
found in Magna Carta, American War of Independence and French
Revolution. They were mostly in the form of negative rights, i.e., State shall
not interfere with the enjoyment of certain basic rights. But after the Second
World War, attempts were made to build an international system so that
holocaust of war was not repeated. This system wanted to protect civil and
political rights of people and ensure that all nations were committed to this.
At the same time, the international community also had the obligation of
fulfilling certain positive rights, like economic, social and cultural rights.
These positive rights required positive action involving the use of resources
and in 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the
United Nations which included both civil and political rights as well as
economic, social and cultural rights.
It was realized that the distinction
between the civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights
was artificial and thin. Human rights needed to be considered in totality as
human dignity is by its nature indivisible. It was not enough merely to protect
individual rights like civil, political, economic etc, without looking at the
whole picture, as people were doing. We needed protection that was sustainable.
Adequate steps needed be taken to build up mechanisms to safeguard these human
rights in entirety.
The developing countries sought for an
equal status with other nations. This led to the Declaration of Right to
Development in 1986, which was adopted by the United Nations with an
overwhelming majority, defining development as a composite right where all
human rights – civil, political, economic, social, cultural as well as other
rights such as the rights of children and women, are realized. Thus human
rights were given new a dimension and content. Development was described as
comprehensive economic, social and political process where all rights can be
realized, and not merely as increase of GDP or rise in volume of employment or
export promotion. Development necessarily entails economic growth, but this
growth has to be equitable, participatory, accountable and transparent.
The right to development is something which cannot be realized immediately.
Right to food, health, education, employment, standards of living need to be
realized progressively in phased manner, summing up to the right to
development, and ultimately to human development. Human development means
expansion of freedom and ensuring people’s ability to lead lives of their
choice, with the removal of obstacle such as hunger, malnutrition, ill-health,
illiteracy and economic insecurities.
The pursuit of social
justice has become imperative in this day and age. However, while governments
find it increasingly difficult to deny citizens their basic rights, there are
deep-seated and well-entrenched socio-economic structures that continue to pose
a colossal challenge to the realization of a just and equitable social order.
Broadly speaking, social justice stems from the idea that all human beings are
entitled to the fulfillment of certain basic needs and rights, regardless of
their social differences such as economic disparity, class, gender, race,
ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability or health. (Neo
Simutanyi. 2008. “The African Debate on Social Justice.” Paper presented to the
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung-Tanzania/Chama Cha Mapinduzi Youth League Regional
Forum on Youth Perspectives and Social Justice, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,
23-27 November 2008).
While the Indian economy
has grown at a phenomenal pace since independence, thanks to the introduction
of new technology, modernization of agriculture, and rapid industrialization;
the question we need to ask ourselves is whether we have made as much progress
in terms of human development. By human development, I mean widening and
deepening the scope of freedoms available to all people without exception and
guaranteeing them their right to dignified and meaningful existence. We need to
ask ourselves if the citizens of this country live with freedom from fear,
repression, discrimination, exploitation, hunger, and poverty, and participate
in public life as free-willed and equal citizens, or if certain sections and
communities of people continue to face economic marginalization and social
In terms of human
development indicators, the South Asian region has a dismal record. The
Millennium Development Goals Report 2008 has estimated that mounting food
prices are likely to push as many as 100 million people in ‘absolute poverty’,
mostly in “Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, already regions with the
largest numbers of people living in extreme poverty.” According to the 2008
Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia share the
highest regional Hunger Index scores, making poverty and hunger levels in these
regions ‘alarming’. This fact is further corroborated by the Multidimensional
Poverty Index (MPI), developed by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development
Initiative in collaboration with the UNDP, according to which eight Indian
states including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, “together account for more
poor people than in the 26 poorest African Nations combined”( Times of India.
12 July 2010). The NHRC has also been closely monitoring the case of starvation
deaths reported earlier this year from the Koraput, Bolangir and Kalahandi (KBK)
districts of Orissa.
While it is widely
recognized that no social phenomenon is as full in its attack on human rights
as poverty, there are several other social and economic inequalities that
exist, which deny individuals their fundamental rights and in turn prevent them
from living full, meaningful lives. These inequities often reflect themselves
in what the political scientist Johan Galtung, famously described as
‘structural violence’, which is a reference to a form of violence based on the
systematic ways in which the existence of certain social structures or
institutions harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. Institutionalized
casteism, sexism, and elitism are just some examples of the various forms
of structural violence.
Despite these challenges, however, there
is also a concomitant and encouraging move towards recognizing an
ever-increasing number of rights, which are deemed necessary for living a
dignified and full life. The ambit of social justice has gradually expanded to
include among other rights, the right to healthcare, education, food, forest
rights for indigenous communities, and policy-level interventions in the form
of affirmative action for the historically marginalized and discriminated
communities. Further, issues of gender, youth and the disabled are also
increasingly being viewed as social justice issues requiring policy
While historically, all
religions have preached the equality of individuals and fair treatment, it was
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which perhaps for the first
time, formally acknowledged the importance of legally guaranteeing and
protecting human rights of people across national divides. The UDHR together
with the International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, contain progressive
provisions that aim at promoting social justice globally.
certainly describe the last few decades as the age of corruption and kickbacks.
Unprecedented corruption, a proliferation of scams, growing involvement of
public servants occupying apex positions and media reports about huge amount of
money hoarded in foreign banks, would all justify the categorization.
Naturally, the rights of the common man are dented. The Prime Minister’s recent
assertion to the Chief Secretaries during a recent interaction with them, to
take on corruption vigorously, and the Home Minister’s observation over the
deficit in governance and ethics ongoing since long, are an expression of
common man’s concern & sufferings. Unequivocally the other malignant
contributors towards human rights violations are persisting ethnic, religious
and political tensions aggravated by weak institutions of civil society. The
call of the hour is for an integrated approach to cleanse the system for
establishing an atmosphere conducive to respect, promotion and protection of
human rights of all ensured by the Constitution of the country.
The NHRC, in its short journey of
over 16 years, has relentlessly endeavoured to be at the vanguard of the battle
to curb violations of human rights across the country and create an enabling
environment for the realization of social and economic justice. In furtherance
of its task to better protect and promote human rights, it has realized that
failures in the sphere of human rights in economic, social and cultural areas
are widespread across the nation and these denials drive the citizens to the
margins of human existence. The struggle for the promotion and protection of
human rights inevitably requires the elimination of aberrations that, over
time, fragment society, leaving some more equal than others.
Efforts are thus essential to continue to
be actively engaged in the protection and promotion of the rights of the weaker
sections of the Society through various programmes such as social and
educational empowerment, labour welfare, supplementary and continuing
education, rehabilitation for the physically and mentally challenged,
sustainable livelihood, and women’s empowerment, among a host of others.
While human rights institutions like the
NHRC have a significant role in the promotion and protection of human rights in
all spheres including social, economic, political and cultural, these can at
best work as catalysts in assisting in efforts towards protecting and promoting
human rights of the most vulnerable groups. The contributions of civil
society actors and the state are just as crucial in this noble endeavour.
In this regard, I believe the approach should be, ‘think globally and act
locally’. It is only when we combine our efforts and energies in a symbiotic
and enabling partnership that we will become, to quote Mahatma Gandhi, “the
change we wish to see”. Let us draw inspiration from the lives of great men
like Mahatma Gandhi in building a new India, a great India based on social
By : Justice K G
Balakrishnan ; Former Chief Justice of India &