PUCL Bulletin, January 2005
Right to human development
(The following note for consideration by the Ahmedabad meeting of the National Council of the PUCL (December 4-5, 2004) and its adoption as a resolution for its implementation to fine tune the programmes with the challenges and obligations it faces as the country's front-ranking organization in the cause of human rights, was presented by the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand branches of the PUCL signed by the Presidents and General Secretaries of both the branches (the Uttaranchal branch of the PUCL is known as the Uttarakhand branch). – Y.P. Chhibbar, General Secretary)
The Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand branches of the PUCL present the attached note for consideration at this meeting of the National Council of the PUCL. Its central focus is on the great need to fine tune the programmes of the PUCL from mere civil liberties to a greater agenda. Through this, we have urged that in view of the national scenario which has emerged in the country, particularly during the last two decades of the 20th century, any struggle for only the cause of civil liberties has now lost its relevance unless it is expanded into a larger and more realistic campaign tor enforcement of human rights founded on the right of the people to human development. Without adopting such an approach the democratic governance for "we the people of India", who gave themselves the Indian Constitution, is not conceivable.
- The note emphasis that at the center of realization of human rights by citizens is their right to human development to be ensured necessarily by the State and its democratically elected government, but which has tragically taken a back seat in the Indian polity.
- The note refers to the developments of far-reaching consequences which have pushed the right to human development to even much beyond the fringe of the national agenda of governance.
- The note seeks to drive home the point that unless a struggle for asserting the people's basic right to human development is placed at the core of PUCL's agenda, the relevance of this front-ranking human rights organization will suffer a swift dilution, and so will its campaign for enforcement of civil liberties and human rights.
Behind what the note pleads lies our own experiences at the ground level in Uttarakhand. The historic struggle and suffering of the people in the hilly districts of the then Uttar Pradesh for a hill state of their own had emanated from their disgusting frustration and anguish over the fact that their development, while they were part of UP, had suffered endless neglect and indifference by those who had governed UP since independence. It accordingly led to a historic realization among them that the right to development should belong to none other than the local people themselves, and as this sentiment and resolve got stronger, their movement for a hill state acquired greater dimensions, sending jitters down the spine of the then Mulayam Singh government in UP. The rest is history. The agitationists were subjected to the worst of human right violations, including loot, killings, and rape, in Rampur Tiraha in Muzaffarnagar district, Khatima, Dehradun, and Mussoorie in September and October, 1994.
It was then that the Uttar Pradesh PUCL had taken a serious notice of the movement for creation of Uttarakhand, based on the people's assertion of their democratic right to development. The UP PUCL threw itself in a big way into their legal battle at the Allahabad High Court to seek justice against serious breach of human rights violations. Later on, it also organized intensive tours by its teams to the interior regions of the newly created hill state in order to interact with the people there and also provide them a kind of leadership on how best they could lead to a logical conclusion their struggle for realization of their dream for development through a mechanism of decentralized governance where the local people, and not the bureaucrats and politicians, determine the course of their social, cultural, economic, and educational destinies. This process of PUCL's groundwork in the hill state to place the right to human development at the center of realization of human rights by the people there still continues vigorously with very encouraging results.
When the new hill state, named Uttaranchal, was created, the national PUCL advised the UP PUCL to pursue the organizational objectives there also, and only at the appropriate time, when necessary groundwork had been done, to assist in the constitution of the Uttarakhand branch of the PUCL. The Uttarakhand PUCL has since been established, and it is now working in tandem with the UP PUCL through various agitational programmes to motivate the people in Uttaranchal to accelerate their mass movement, which seeks to bring the right to development at the center of the people's human rights through a decentralized governance by people's participation.
This note thus has as its inspiration the experiment being successfully done, for the first time anywhere in the world, to bring into sharp focus an action-oriented people's movement, primarily based on human development as the sine-qua-non of any cause in support of both civil liberties and human rights. To fight for enforcement of the civil liberties only or for that matter to fight for other human rights without focusing it towards the emancipation of hungry, illiterate, exploited, and deprived human beings, is self-defeating and unproductive.
We hope this note wilt surely set the ball rolling for enlarging into the national perspective what had been realized in Uttaranchal. -- Ravi Kiran Jain, President, UP PUCL; K.K. Roy, General Secretary, UP PUCL; Rajendra Dhasmana, President, Uttarakhand PUCL; and Ms. Himanshu Baurai, General Secretary, Uttarakhand PUCL.
Ahmedabad, December 5, 2004
Right to Human Development – A Precondition to Realization of Human Rights
When we achieved independence, the Constituent Assembly was already engaged in the making of the Constitution of India. The advent of independence, on its eve on August 14, 1947, on the floor of the Constituent Assembly, was described by Jawaharlal Nehru as "tryst with destiny". Nehru declared there: "Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge." He reminded the country that the tasks ahead included "the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunities." Human rights as a concept, as a principle of jurisprudence, as a code of conduct, governing the nations of the world, was initiated on December 10, 1948, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We became a Republic on January 26, 1950, when the Constitution of India came into force. It is a socio-economic document. It is said to be enacted by "We the People of India" who are its architects and founding fathers and mothers. Part III, relating to Fundamental Rights, and Part IV, relating to the Directive Principles, were the result of the echo of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 in the Constituent Assembly.
When we became a Republic, it was hoped that a government, working on the principles contained in Part IV of the Constitution would launch an unrelenting offensive against poverty, disease, inequality of opportunity, and illiteracy. It was expected that the country would reach a stage where economic, social, and civil rights of the people would cease to be mere dreams but would become a reality within a reasonable period of time, say within two decades or so.
Though the Constitution did not prescribe the time limit, it could be inferred from its provisions. For instance, Article 45 envisaged a 10- year time-bound programme for implementation of its objective towards giving primary education to all the children up to the age of 14 years, though even this remains unfulfilled till today.
There was an urge—an impatient urge—in the minds of "We the People of India" to make our dreams a reality within a reasonable time-bound programme, envisaged in the Constitution. During Nehru years, it appeared that the task would be achieved within a reasonable period of time, and this hope continued till the early hours of January 11, 1966, the date of Lat Bahadur Shastri's death. Granville Austin, in his remarkable book, "Working a Democratic Constitution", commenting on Shastri's death says, "a new era, one that would be marked by confrontation over institutional and personal power, began with the arrival in the Prime Minister's office of Nehru's daughter, Mrs. Indira Gandhi."
In 1971, Indira Gandhi, politically shrewd as she was, was fully able to sense the impatience in the people to remove poverty, ignorance, disease, and inequality of opportunity, gave a deceptive slogan of "garibi hataao" and later on imposed Emergency. But even during that period, only a few had realized that poverty and disparity was not something which would be removed through any political jugglery of words, often used in this country to infuse illusory optimism among the poor masses by offering them such slogans (read lollypops). The hard truth is that poverty still stares in the faces of crores of hapless people of this country. Thus, the impatient urge of the people was marred.
Degeneration showed its ugliest head, beginning with the 1980s, when corruption-dominated politics, coupled with the criminalisation of politics, ultimately brought about a situation where our coffers became empty by the time Chandrashekhar took over as Prime Minister in 1991.
People had by then become sidelined and a corrupt bureaucracy, rather than representatives elected by the people, literally acquired a commanding control over the State's responsibility of governance.
This was subsequently followed by a deeper degeneration when political parties and politicians, in pursuit of their one-point agenda to acquire power, irrespective of the means, divided people along caste and communal lines.
This phenomenon continued to hold the country in its tight grip till some ray of light was seen at the last Lok Sabha election with the ascendancy of secular political forces, though as far as the fate of the masses of India is concerned, there was not much reason to hope that even with this change, the system would be liberated from the degeneration which had set in the last two decades of the 20th century.
Notably, during these decades, a realization came about in the world about the some facts of human rights. The 1986 UN Declaration of Human Rights was the outcome of such realization. It was followed by the 1993 Vienna Declaration of Human Rights.
In our country, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), then headed by Justice Venkatchaliah, very rightly took notice of the said Vienna Declaration in its 1996-97 annual report, wherein it observed that "With each succeeding year, the Commission has grown stronger in it; conviction that all human rights, whether civil, political, economic, social or cultural, must be viewed, as the 1993 Vienna Declaration of Human Rights did, as "universal, indivisible and inter-related". The Commission noted that economic and social rights had remained inadequately fulfilled in our democracy.
It is pertinent to note what has been observed by the UN Newsletter, 30 October-5 November 2004, in respect of the inextricable relationship between civil and political rights, on the one hand, and economic and social rights, on the other.
On the front page of the Newsletter, the write-up, titled "UN Launches Fresh Approach to Try Bolster Human Rights Protection in Countries", observes as follows, "... while support for human right has always been at the heart of the UN's mission, for too long during the Cold War years, discussion of the concept as related to development was too often distorted by political rhetoric—civil and political rights on the one hand and economic and social rights on the other were regarded not as two sides of the same coin but as competing visions for world's future… Fortunately, we have moved well beyond that confrontational discussion to a wider recognition that both sets of rights are inextricably linked... The goal is to achieve all human rights—civil, cultural, economic, political and social – for all people. Access to education, heath care, shelter and employment is critical to human freedom as political and civil rights are. And when adhered to in practice, as well as principle, the two concepts make up a virtuous circle of freedom and development, hand in hand."
All this boils down to this the essence of human rights lies in the dignity and the worth of a human person. Respect for human rights envisages accountability for every violation. This is possible only through good governance, which must ensure removal of poverty, disparity, disease, illiteracy and ignorance, and must provide to each person a life with dignity. This, in other words, becomes feasible only in the event of human development being at the center of the agenda and implementation in any good governance. The Declaration on the Right to Development made by the General Assembly in 1986 also recognises the right to develop as an inalienable human right. The Vienna Declaration & Programme of Action, adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights, on June 25, 1993, reaffirmed the right to development as a universal and inalienable right and also as an integral part of fundamental human rights. The right to development of the human person is the central subject of development, the UN Newsletter further reiterated.
It will be relevant to quote here what former Chief Justice of India JS Verma has said in his recently published book "New Universe of Human Rights" in the chapter, "Good Governance—the Need of the Hour". He explained good governance in the following words, "What is meant by good governance? It would mean in the Indian context to redeem the pledge of Mahatma Gandhi to ‘wipe every tear from every eye' and to keep the 'tryst with destiny' promised by Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of the Freedom at Midnight".
Thus, a holistic view of human rights is the need of the hour, and it implies that all civic, political, economic, social, and cultural rights are inter-related and inter dependent.
So, the concept of merely fighting for civil liberties becomes outmoded, outlived and futile. The PUCL, being the front-ranking human rights organization in India, has to take serious notice of it.
Indian Constitution's Part III, containing people's civil and political rights, and Part IV, containing social, economic and cultural rights (Part III being enforceable through the courts and Part IV not being enforceable through the courts, though fundamental in the governance of the country) were based upon the idea that these were two different categories of human rights, being independent of each other. It was expected by the people of India that the rights contained in part IV, being fundamental in the governance of the country, would be realized within a reasonable time, as aforesaid, by the various elected governments.
However, after 1971, by a centralized system of governance and concentration of power in a few hands, institutions created by the Constitution were sought to be weakened. Individuals became stronger than institutions, leading to corruption as well as criminalisation of politics. After 1980, there seemed to emerged an unwritten clear consensus among all the political leaders to push into the background the fundamental principles contained in Part IV, thus leading to the situation as it exists today.
Since the people of India have been failed by the political leaders, it becomes a historic necessity for human rights organizations to awaken the people and make political parties accountable. For this, the PUCL may have to fight against the evils of corruption and criminalisation of politics, as also against those who have been practicing the politics of dividing the people on caste and communal lines.
The PUCL may have to devise new or innovative ideas and programmes and chalk out new strategies for social action.
Looking back, after the Indian economy reached its brink in 1991 on account of misgovernance for all these decades, we came under the trap of the IMF, and thereafter, of the WTO and the World Bank. We have to come out of the cobwebs of globalisation and the process of so-called reforms it has set in, as a result of which India has already lost its political and economic sovereignty to the aforesaid global forces whose singular aim is to infuse vigor to their own economies (i) by squeezing out Indian goods markets; (ii) by exploiting cheaply our workforce and professionals, while rubbing under their feet those very rules of employment, working hours, weekly holidays, etc., which multinationals dare not violate in their own countries; (iii) by forcing our government to deprive our people, a heavy percentage of whom live below the poverty line, of the subsidies they rightly deserve on essential commodities as part of the State's responsibility towards ensuring public welfare; and (iv) by exploiting human and natural resources of India for their own benefits.
It requires to be emphasized that what is good governance is now being told to the Central as well as the State Governments by the World Bank. The word ‘governance' is found in Part IV of the Constitution of India, and the fundamental principles contained therein are no more followed. It is the principles dictated by the World Bank which have become fundamental. What is poverty line? How to remove poverty? How to ensure food and water for all, etc.? These are the questions which the World Bank poses and also answers. The development agenda has been handed over virtually to the World bank under the name of "reforms", and "a development with human face". The World Bank has access to the documents through our corrupt bureaucracy. The process of human development on the fundamental principles, contained in Part IV of the Constitution, has been reversed by the dictates of the World Bank. It has made us mentally, economically, and politically bankrupt through the corrupt bureaucracy and the political leadership.
This has taken a full circle which is apparent from the observations made by the World Bank president, James D Wolfensohn, on his recent visit lo India (November 17-18, 2004) when he had the audacity to claim that "When I think of India, I also see a very critical role for this country in a very much more immediate fight - the global fight against poverty. The simple fact is that the world cannot win this fight if India does not win it." He further observed, “that is not all. India's huge number of illiterate people, children out of school, people suffering from communicable diseases, infant and maternal deaths, all amount to massive proportions of the respective world totals". He further observed, "To resolve these, India must tackle some immediate problems, its antiquated infrastructure, the lack of livelihood opportunities in rural areas, improving health and education outcomes, and ensuring public services, like electricity, water, sanitation and others are efficiently delivered, especially to poor people."
Is the above not a dictation? It is a pity that the problems which the president of the World Bank is talking of are real ones, but the political leaders have given a clear way to the World Bank to point out these problems and suggest the ways to tackle them. Is it not a total and absolute surrender of our economic and political sovereignty to the World Bank? Is it not destructive to the right to development of the people? These are the questions which arise for consideration of the PUCL in this convention.
The observations of the President of the World Bank, quoted above, are from his article which appeared in the Times of India on its edit page, November 18, 2004, under the heading. “Tryst with Destiny—Globalisation can be India’s Hour of Glory”. We feel tempted to quote its concluding part, even at the cost of constraints of space in this note.
It reads, "The key determinant to moving forward on theses multiple fronts will be India’s ability to mobilize, in a concerted and consistent manner, the right matrix of policies and programmes, that will encourage investment, improve livelihoods and incomes, and promote better human development outcomes. The World Bank is ready to partner India in this effort with lending and analytical support. I see a nation that has the capacity and confidence to address and resolve these challenges. The world believes that India, to quote the great Jawaharlal Nehru, has a tryst with destiny. The time has come to redeem that pledge."
This clearly demonstrates a reversal of the process, as said above, taking full circle. The tryst with destiny, referred by Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of Independence and as perceived by Justice J.S. Verma, is now being claimed to be rightly perceived by the president of the World Bank. What was visualized by Nehru has thus been hi jacked by the World bank for destroying our sovereignty with impunity, and this could be possible for it to do because of a total surrender by our own people's elected governments!
In the light of the discussion above, the PUCL would have to purse a two-pronged strategy: (i) to exhort and involve the people to fight out corruption and criminalisation, communalisation as well as casteisation of polities, which has pushed the country into the vicious net of globalisation; and (ii) to launch a powerful campaign for asserting people's right to development, being inextricably intrinsic to human rights.
What is the right to human development? The question was answered in a letter, written jointly by PUCL national president, Mr. K.G. Kannabiran, national General Secretary, Dr. Y.P. Chhibbar, and UP PUCL president, Mr. Ravi Kiran Jain on July 22, 2004. It said, "Human development is development of the people for the people by the people, development of the people means investing in human capabilities, whether in education or health or skills, so that they can work productively and creatively. Development for the people means ensuring that the economic growth they generate is distributed widely and fairly. And development by the people means a decentralized system of governance where the people participate in its process—something which was conceived by the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, providing for governance by locally elected representatives at the urban and rural grassroots.
But it has been literally rendered ineffective on account of the centralized political authority, where none other than the bureaucrats set the agenda for development of the people even at the grassroots, and while they do so, they are seen now to be working more and more under the control and supervision of the World Bank and multinational corporations. In other words, the development agenda is now being imposed on the people not only from the centralized political authority at the top in India, but also from those who are at the commanding position in the West and its financial institutions who think that they alone can determine what is good for the Indian people."
It is to be noted that the word "development" was nowhere used in the Indian Constitution till it figured, for the first time, in the 73rd and 74th Amendments. Clearly, the inspiration came from the 1986 UN Human Rights Declaration, which had emphasised that "development" was inextricably intrinsic to translating into reality the concept of human rights. It was for the realization of this ideal, so pragmatically laid down in the 1986 Human Rights Declaration, that the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments were brought on the statute book in 1993. The implications of placing people at the center of political and economic change are profound. What is needed is a profound human revolution that makes people's participation the central objective in all parts of life. Every institution—and every policy action—must be judged by one critical test: how does it meet the genuine aspirations of the people and how vast it is in its reach.
As for fixing the priorities, they must include preservation of ecology, eradication of poverty and hunger, primary education, employment, improved health, and environment sustainability of land and air.
People's participation in governance can alone ensure achievement of the goals, and this would call for accelerating the process of emergence of a civil society in the country, based on issue-based politics in the coming years. For this, we will have to evolve a political thought process and campaign which is different from what determines the agenda of the existing political parties.
Articles 243 G and 243 W, in the aforesaid 73rd and 74th Amendments, have provided for endowing the panchayats at the village, intermediary, and district levels as also the municipalities to prepare plans for economic development and social justice for the people living in their respective areas. If these two Articles are read together with the 11th and 12th Schedules, one cannot add anything more to the subjects covered so extensively by these two Schedules in order to bring about economic development and social justice for the local people. The 73rd and 74th Amendments had made it incumbent upon the respective state governments to pass legislations, endowing these local institutions with the power to make plans for people under Articles 243 G and 243 W, but, shockingly, not even one state government, has done it so far, even though about a decade has already passed since these Amendments came into effect.
The Constructional intention to bring about people's participation in governance at the grassroots, however, stands wholly negated by the forces of globalisation, aided by the World Bank and the WTO and there is a clear consensus among all the political parties to go along with it.
As an organization working for the cause of human rights, which hinges essentially on human development, the PUCL has to launch a struggle—and this will be a long struggle—to compel enactment of legislation by every State endowing the panchayats at all levels and urban municipalities with the power envisaged for them under Articles 243G and 243 W. – Ravi Kiran Jain
It was resolved that the above document be circulated to the General body of members of the PUCL and be adopted at the next National Convention. – General Secretary
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