From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing Much
Mains level : Basic rights are the need of hour.
The horrific tragedy in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, where the systemic failure of health care has killed over a hundred children.
Defining rights in a new way
- First, like the constitutional principle of a basic structure, it is time to articulate an equally robust doctrine of basic rights.
- Second, these basic rights must be viewed primarily as positive, rights not against interference from the state (negative rights) but to the provision of something by it.
- Third, just as individuals are punished for legal violations, the government of the day must also be punished for the violation of these basic rights.
- Basic rights flow from basic needs such as physical security or subsistence. Their non-fulfilment can cause great harm, even kill.
- The failure to get an antibiotic if you have a bacterial infection can hurt you very badly.
- Needs depend on the way human bodies are constituted. They are a solid necessity; one cannot get on without them.
- Nor can they be fulfilled by substitutes.
- For us, nothing can take the place of water, food and air.
Impact of lack of basic needs
- People suffer if basic needs are met inadequately or with delay. They are then denied a minimally decent life.
- Elementary justice requires that before anything else, the state does everything at its disposal to satisfy all basic needs of its citizens, particularly of those who cannot fend for themselves.
1.Right to physical security –
- The right to physical security, the first basic right, is socially guaranteed when the state provides its people a well-trained, professional police force.
- It follows that basic rights are a shield for the defenceless against the most damaging threats to their life which include starvation, pestilence and disease.
2. Economic Security –
- The second is the right to minimum economic security and subsistence, that includes clean air, uncontaminated water, nutritious food, clothing and shelter.
- By showing the devastation caused by its absence, the Muzaffarpur tragedy amply proves that the right to primary health care is also an integral part of the right to subsistence.
- For this, proper budgetary allocation is required that depends in turn on getting one’s political priority and commitment right. When a government fails to provide primary health care to those who can’t afford it, it violates their basic rights.
3. The right to free public expression –
- The right to free public expression of helplessness and frustration, if deprived of other basic rights.
- The right to make one’s vulnerability public, be informed about the acts of commission and omission of the government regarding anything that adversely affects the satisfaction of basic needs, to critically examine them and to hold state officials publicly accountable is a basic right on a par with right to physical security and subsistence and inseparably linked to them.
- These three basic rights can be summed up in a single phrase, the right to a minimally decent life.
- A society may soar, strive for great collective achievement. Anything short of a minimally decent life is simply not acceptable. It is this precisely that horrifies us about the callousness of the Bihar government in Muzaffarpur and governments in India more generally.
- They routinely abdicate responsibility for the suffering they directly or indirectly cause.
- This is why we must ask why governments are not immediately and severely penalised when they undermine the exercise of these basic rights.