Opinion : Human Rights Day has been reduced to a gimmick, says Justice Katju

Justice Markandey Katju
Justice Markandey Katju

Human Rights Day: By Justice Markandey Katju

10th December is observed annually as Human Rights Day everywhere. On this day the UN General Assembly adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

However, I submit that this annual ritual is just paying lip service, and is only a gimmick.

The truth is that this world really consists of two worlds, the world of the developed countries ( North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and China ), and the world of the underdeveloped countries ( which includes India, Pakistan, etc ). The majority of people of the world live in the latter and are mostly poor.

Poverty is destructive of all rights, so the vast majority of people in the world, who live in the underdeveloped countries, have thus really no right.

In India, for instance, with its huge population of 1.35 to 1.40 billion people, there is widespread poverty, record and rising unemployment, appalling level of child malnourishment ( every second child in India is malnourished, according to Global Hunger Index ), almost total lack of healthcare and good education for the masses, skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs, fuel, etc, farmers distress ( over 3 lac have committed suicide ), etc. Is this not denial of human rights to such people? What does freedom of speech, liberty, equality etc mean to a man who is poor, hungry, or unemployed?

In his State of the Union Address on 11th January 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt of the USA said that the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution is an empty platitude and illusory unless people get proper employment, food, healthcare, housing, social security etc. Hence he proposed a Second Bill of Rights, consisting of these socio-economic rights, to be incorporated in the US Constitution, as the existing rights were meaningless without them. Unfortunately, this was never done.

I submit that all this talk of human rights will remain a forlorn dream, and observance of Human Rights Day will remain an empty ritual and stunt unless a social and political order is created in which everyone gets the rights proposed by President Roosevelt ( see online and on YouTube ).

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