India: Human Rights In Orissa

Published: Wed 9 Dec 2009 02:26 PM
India: Human Rights In Orissa
The fundamental rights were included in the constitution because they were considered essential for the development of the personality of every individual and to preserve human dignity. The writers of the constitution regarded democracy of no avail if civil liberties, like freedom of speech and religion were not recognized and protected by the State. According to them, "democracy" is, in essence, a government by opinion and therefore, the means of formulating public opinion should be secured to the people of a democratic nation. For this purpose, the constitution guaranteed to all the citizens of India the freedom of speech and expression and various other freedoms in the form of the fundamental rights.
These fundamental rights help not only in protection but also the prevention of gross violations of human rights. They emphasize on the fundamental unity of India by guaranteeing to all citizens the access and use of the same facilities, irrespective of background.
What is the Status of the Fundamental rights to the Citizen in this country, in this state of Orissa, and particularly in the tribal regions, where live the most poor, and underprivileged communities:
The Right To Life, And Personal Liberty:
What is the right to life? There are several defenitions, and clarifications about this, and it is taken as the right to food, right to livelihood, etc. In the Bombay slum case, Justice Krishna Iyer ruled that slum dwellers cannot be moved from their settlements as it prevented them from earning their livelihood, and was thus a violation of their right to life. These are land mark rulings that provide the precedent for avoiding future violations. However the violation of the right to food goes on day after day for the rural and tribal people, endlessly, ceaselessly. There are cases ad infinitum where labourers have worked and received no payment. This, has only increased after the NREGA. In a right to food survey undertaken some months back, 80% of respondent families said they were able have only one square meal a day, in the districts of Kalahandi, Koraput, and Rayagada.
The Right To Freedom enshrines the freedom of speech, expression, movement, profession, right to settle anywhere in the country, and freedom of assembly.
What is the right to freedom given to the citizens of this country, and more so the citizens of this state? The governments are in a hurry to ‘develop’ the backward tribal regions of their states. Land is acquired, entire village communities denied their resources, and livelihoods, and forced and coerced to accept compensation packages, and seek occupation elsewhere. This kind of ‘involuntary resettlement’ as the policy makers like to term it is a violation of every basic right to freedom of the displaced communities.
In addition to forced displacement, when local communities protest, Criminal cases are instituted against them, and pending cases against masses, makes movement difficult for them.
A growing police presence in the tribal regions curtails the freedom of Assembly and freedom of Speech of the tribal people.
As the aboriginal settlers, they have inhabited the tribal hinterlands for centuries, but this fundamental freedom to continue in their homelands is denied to them through displacement, as they are uprooted, and forced to move away.
In 2002, through the 86th Amendment Act, Article 21(A) was incorporated. It made the right to primary education part of the right to freedom, stating that the State would provide free and compulsory education to children from six to fourteen years of age. Six years after an amendment was made in the Indian Constitution, the union cabinet cleared the Right to Education Bill in 2008. It is now a fundamental right of every child to get free and compulsory education. In the tribal regions, where schools do not run, this right is being violated ad infinitum. Few children get the fundamental right to education when the efficiency of delivery is near zero.
Add to this Custodial deaths, Detention, Undertrial prisoners and the deplorable condition of our jails. The picture of violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens is quite horrifying in the state. One also needs to ask what is caste and class of prisoners. A huge number of prisoners in jails, are political undertrial prisoners for their support to social movements, in the cause of human rights. The majority of them are tribals. The state does not make any distinction between them, and ordinary prisoners or undertrials. Several convicts have finished their life sentences, and have spent several more years in jail, the majority of them are tribals. Clearly, there is much violation of rights, and discrimination in many of these cases.
Right Against Exploitation provides for abolition of trafficking, and abolition of child labour:
Here again we see, the maximum violations in the tribal regions, where trafficking in human beings, exploits the poverty and unemployment of the communities. Tribal labourers are trafficked to distant states from Orissa under the worst conditions. Much of this is called distress migration, but it is much more heinous offence, as strong able-bodied youth are lured away on different pretexts, and trapped into terrible conditions, which do not even provide for a transport back home. The several stories of such exploitation underline a gross violation that needs to be looked into urgently.
Child labour still continues in the state in various forms. Children are abused as domestic servants, in hazardous industries, as also in agricultural and wage labour work. Children, and specially girl children are trafficked to faraway lands, where they are victims of all kinds of abused.
Right to Equality:
This is a right most often existing in violation within the state. The largest section of victims are women, with the most blatant violation apparent in the alarming fall in the children below 6 sex ratios. The truth of the matter is that girls do not even have an equal right to live. The violation of this right is much more prevalent in the non-tribal districts. Despite the exposures and scams about sex selection clinics, the hidden genocide of the girl child continues in the state. The feminists, have little answers to this.
Other forms of discrimination also exist on the basis of caste, and religion, indicated by the growing divide in the tribal regions as well as the communal tensions in the tribal hinterlands.
International Covenants:
The Government of India had ratified all the international covenants on rights of indigenous communities, on rights of children, on women’s rights and on other human rights. This ratification makes these a part of the constitution of the country. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognises a much broader base for human rights, than within the narrow confines of detention, and torture by the state, and the conditions of POWs. This important Covenant recognises the right to work, and the right to adequate wages for a decent living for the workers and their families, it recognises the right to form trade unions, and right to an adequate standard of living. The Government of India has recognized the important role of this covenant, and amended the Directive Principals of state policy in keeping with this Covenant. Yet much of these rights, and acts are but paper tigers in this country, and the government turns a blind eye to the several violations of the basic right of the people in the countries, and specially the right of the more deprived and vulnerable sections, including tribals, Dalits, women, and children. Even more shockingly, the government is itself increasingly becoming a violator, as it aids and abets corporate sector players to grab land and resources for what is now called ‘Public Interest’. A democratic government is getting away with blatant violations as the people of the country suffer. What is the way out. Can civil society take a stand, and ensure state accountability to its people? This is the focus of the workshop. We call on all citizens to come together on this issue, on the International Human Rights day, in an effort to address the different and gross violations that are going on.
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. The above statement has only been forwarded by the AHRC.

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