Right to development most important: Muchkund Dubey

April 3rd, 2009 - 4:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) The right to development should subsume all other rights in this country, says former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey, now the joint editor of a book on rights and entitlements.
Edited by Dubey and M.K. Jabbi, director of the Council for Social Development, the book, “A Social Charter for India: Citizens’ Perspective for Basic Rights”, was released in the capital Thursday by Magsaysay awardee Aruna Roy.

At the 10th SAARC summit in Colombo in 1998, it was agreed that an inter-governmental social charter for South Asia under the aegis of SAARC would be drawn up.

A non-governmental think-tank, the South Asian Centre for Policy Studies, prepared a citizens’ social charter for south Asian member nations listing their rights and demands.

On cue, the Council for Social Development in India envisaged a social charter on the rights and entitlements of citizens after a two-level consultation.

The result is “A Social Charter….”. The book is priced at Rs.625 and has been published by Pearson Longman - an imprint of Pearson Education publishing group.

Describing the making of the book, Dubey, now president of the Delhi-based Council for Social Development, said he had invited 150 NGOs from all over the country to brainstorm.

“But nearly 40 turned up. We had two rounds of discussions during which this charter was developed. I told the NGOs that I did not require treatises or descriptions of the rights and demands from them - just written lists. It was a different kind of intellectual input. We also added a chapter on right to development - which subsumes all other rights and issues,” Dubey said.

The volume is divided into two sections. The first section comprises 10 essays, each written by an eminent scholar.

The first two chapters probes the basic rights of Indian citizens based on the Constitution of India, Supreme Court judgements and international declarations.

The rest of the chapters surmise the current situations in India in areas like health, education, environment, women, children, the poor and suggests rights and entitlements in each of these sectors.

However, the real challenge before the civil society, Dubey felt, was to enlarge the consensus on rights and include more aspects that had not been covered like the right to information and labour rights.

The book takes off from the premise that various declarations and covenants have recognised basic fundamental rights for all citizens.

For the citizens to enjoy these rights, says K.R. Venugopal in his introductory essay, the state has an obligation to create appropriate conditions without distinction or discriminations of any kind. The state has to play a proactive role in ensuring these rights to its citizens.

Addressing the function, Sydea S. Hameed, member of the Planning Commission, said the postulations in the charter had to become a living instrument.

Recalling the contribution of citizens at the grassroots to create awareness about rights and entitlements, Hameeda said: “In 1997, I chanced upon Aruna Roy in Jaipur in Rajasthan. She was raising awareness about the right to information. It was an eye opener. The work that she has done 12 years ago has borne fruit now,” Hameeda said.

Hameeda, who is sensitive to issues of women’s empowerment, has for the first time created a gender lens in the country’s national plan, a concern that resonates in the book.

“One of the things I did in the 11th five-year plan was to create a gender lens (a gender-sensitive approach) in every sector - be it rural development, education, health, agriculture, roads, highways, Scheduled Caste and Tribes’ welfare. Everything will have to be looked through a gender lens so that women are not relegated to the margins. Some of the schemes attributed to women had men in it. We have broken new ground,” Hameeda said.

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