Despite a plethora of laws and schemes aimed at providing social services, the human rights situation continues to deteriorate in the country with the government failing to succeed in realising the economic, social and cultural rights for the majority of the population.
On the eve of the World Human Rights Day, the working group on human rights in India and the UN (WGHR) records that during the high economic growth period averaging 8.2% between 2007 and 2011, poverty declined marginally by just 0.8% and three-fourth of the population faced further marginalisation.
India also houses the largest population of internally displaced persons, either due to armed conflicts —numbering 5.06 lakh — or, as a result of development projects since Independence — 60 to 65 million population (80% Dalits and tribals). This amounts to around one million people being displaced every year.
While lobbying hard for a deserving permanent seat at the UN Security Council, the country has failed to ratify 12 international treaties and conventions. During the second universal period review (UPR) undertaken by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) few months back in Geneva, the official delegation led by attorney general GN Vahanvati refused to entertain 184 recommendations out of a total of 349 related to social, cultural, educational and health rights to its population.
While the Indian delegation accepted the general UN recommendations like introducing a curriculum on human rights, it rejected specific recommendations like allocating 2% of GDP to health or to strengthen the process for ensuring independent and timely investigation to eliminate corruption or increase accountability and transparency or establishment of a national human rights plan, among others.
The report says the central government’s proposed Land Acquisition Bill also falls short of many promises.
“The Bill does not aim at minimising evictions, does not have a rights-based definition of public purpose and does not include adequate human rights safeguards for rehabilitation. It is also weak with regard to urban eviction and displacement issues,” says Miloon Kothari, convener of WGHR and former UN special rapporteur.
Shockingly, in a country where an estimated population of 23.1 crore goes hungry every day, 67,000 tonnes of food grains were rotting in the godowns. The report says the public distribution system (PDS) excludes many genuinely poor households through targeting errors.
It also calls for tweaking food security legislation to look beyond welfare schemes to include protection to natural resources, promote land reforms and support production and utilisation of coarse grains grown by local communities.
It further says India was perhaps the only country where 1,600 people died between 2008 and 2010 during clinical trials of drugs by multinational pharmaceutical companies.
The compensation was paid only in 22 out of 668 cases. It also has the highest number of people —51% of the population—who defecate in the open and has a dismal record of access to clean drinking water and sanitation.
While Parliament recently approved the government policy on FDI, the report says the policy, along with foreign trade agreements (FTAs) currently under negotiation, have potential to violate human rights to food, water, work, livelihood, housing, land and development, especially of vulnerable groups.