//Local bodies should protect human rights, says Mani

Local bodies should protect human rights, says Mani

Call to create awareness on basic human rights

# Local bodies told to ensure protection of habitat
# Give priority to the needs of the poor, says poet Sugathakumari

KOTTAYAM: Revenue Minister K.M. Mani has stressed the role of Panchayati Raj institutions in preventing infringement of human rights.

Inaugurating a seminar on Panchayati Raj institutions and human rights conducted by the Kerala State Human Rights Commission for members of local bodies here on Friday, Mr. Mani said most of the special powers hitherto vested with the State Government hade been delegated to the Panchayati Raj institutions. If they withdraw from fulfilling the various responsibilities entrusted to them, that itself would be a major infringement of human rights, he said.

The Minister said one of the major responsibilities given to Panchayati Raj institutions was ensuring the protection of habitat. All citizens had the right to live in an environment in harmony with nature and it was up to the local bodies to ensure this, he said. He said the increasing number of attacks on the right to organise, right to religion, and right to freedom of expression was infringement of human rights.

Mr. Mani said incidents of exploitation in society occurred mainly on account of the lack of awareness about basic human rights. He hoped that seminars and campaigns on the issue would help create awareness among the public.

Poet Sugathakumari said wrong priorities in development models had resulted in imbalances in nature. Those who take up massive reclamation of wetlands do not bother about the water scenario in the State 20 years from now, she said. She called upon the local bodies to give priority to the needs of weakest in society.

Cyriac Thomas, former Vice-Chancellor, Mahatma Gandhi University, in his address said though law was the tool to ensure justice, its enforcement was not properly being carried out.

Commission chairman Mohan Kumar, A. Lakshmikutty, judge, S. Varghese, R. Ajayakumar Varma, Alexander Jacob, IG of Police, were among those who spoke.