//India still not 'shining', says rights activist

India still not 'shining', says rights activist

Mumbai, Feb 8 (IANS) As long as one out of four Indians go to bed hungry every night, human rights for all will remain a dream in India, says an international human rights activist.

While a mere three percent of India was 'shining' in metropolitan cities, a whopping 80 percent of over one billion people living in rural deprivation and urban slums were 'whining', John Samuel, international director of Bangkok-based Action Aid, told IANS.

Samuel, visiting fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the Sussex University, said unless the country addressed this paradox of tremendous growth with unprecedented inequality, the promises in the Indian constitution about provision of basic human rights could not be realised.

'When 50,000 people die every single day across the world due to poverty, the challenge is to use human rights as a means to expose injustice, discrimination and double standards,' Samuel said on the sidelines of a Feb 6-8 conference titled 'Human rights based approach to development' here.

'About 250 million Dalits, Adivasis (tribals) and indigenous people are at the receiving end of the growth-driven economic globalisation, perpetuating inequality, and poverty and consequent conflicts,' asserted Samuel, who has been in the forefront of advocacy for human rights and social justice in India and internationally for more than two decades.

'When only a minute section of the society gets benefit from the neo-liberal globalisation and the large majority are pushed into further deprivation, perpetuating inequality and when such inequality is also connected to identities of the excluded, it becomes a breeding ground for conflict, violence and armed insurgencies,' he warned.

Hence, the key challenge for the policy makers, Samuel said, is whether the country should invest more budgets for education, primary health care and livelihood protection of the majority or to increase the number of police force and army to contain the unrest.

'These are the hard choices the political leadership has to make today to nurture a peaceful and prosperous India,' he said.

'These are all pressing challenges for real human rights, in the face of unbridled economic globalisation, based on exploitative extraction of natural resources and livelihoods, driven by powerful corporate interests,' Samuel said.

Today more than ever there is a greater challenge for human rights activists to work towards economic, social and ecological justice. 'Human rights should be a means for a new transformative politics and ethics, where the poor and excluded can claim their human rights and economic capabilities,' Samuel said.

It was a myth, Samuel observed, that economic globalisation is an inevitable roller-coaster ride to prosperity. But another world is indeed possible, a world truly committed to human rights and social justice, a world without poverty and discrimination.

Pointing out the need to work as citizens to claim human rights and demand accountability and transparency from the state, Samuel said: 'It is citizens who are the owners of the state and its shapers, and not the other way around.'

The paradox, he said, in Indian democracy is promoted by undemocratic and non-transparent political practices. Hence, there is a crisis of democracy, governance and leadership in the country.

'Electoral politics is captured by the kith and kin of career politicians at the cost of ethical leadership. Hence, human rights cannot be seen only as a set of treaties, conventions and principles. Human rights should be a means to resist discriminative practices in all spheres,' Samuel observed.

There is a need to make the state accountable, there is a need to bring ordinary people to fight for human rights violations against Dalits, Adivasis, indigenous peoples, women, ordinary people, civil societies and excluded communities, Samuel said.

A collective approach is needed for a pluralistic struggle for human rights not based on Western tradition but inspired by the struggle waged by great Indian social reformers like Kabir, Birsa Munda, Jyotibha Phule, Pandita Ramabai, Narayan Guru et al, he stressed.