The right of life and environment


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 21, 48A, 51A(g)

Mains level : Paper 2- Constitutional values and climate change

The article highlights how climate change impacts the constitutional values and promises by affecting the vulnerable disproportionately and suggest the distinctly Indian paradigm of development.

How democratic values are threatened by climate change

  • Over the last seven decades, India has made distinct progress, but many core development challenges persist and we are yet to fulfill our constitutional promise.
  • Climate change will only exacerbate existing inequalities through a range of cascading and coinciding crises.
  • These words from the Preamble — justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity — serve as reminders of the daunting path to achieving social democracy, especially in a warming world.
  • B R Ambedkar had said that to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact it was essential not to be content with mere political democracy but to strive for social democracy as well.

How climate change affects democratic values

  • Climate change is profoundly unjust.
  •  It will increasingly impinge upon our freedom of movement, and that it could deny equality of status and opportunity to millions of disadvantaged citizens like the forest-dwelling communities who have contributed least to the crisis and yet stand to be hit the hardest.
  • The evidence is clear that unless we rapidly move to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, vast swathes of India could be inhospitable due to floods, droughts, heatwaves, and increasingly erratic and unpredictable monsoon rains.

Call for action against climate change

  • The fraternity can particularly serve as a call to action for the powerful to direct their resources towards shaping India’s response to climate change and “assuring the dignity of the individual”, as framed in the Preamble.
  • Indian business and philanthropy can play a key role in building resilience by encouraging innovation, complementing the role of the state, and securing citizens’ legislated rights.
  • Climate philanthropy can help develop and pilot new solutions and inspire ambitious political action.
  • A plethora of opportunities are currently on the margins but could become mainstream drivers for the three key pillars of jobs, growth, and sustainability.
  • A distinctly Indian, climate-friendly development paradigm powered by clean energy could play an integral role in fostering social and economic justice by uplifting millions of Indians.
  • Our nation’s welfare depends on healing the broken relationship between a broken economy and a broken ecology.

Constitutional mandate to protect the environment

  • The right to life enshrined in Article 21 is increasingly interpreted as a right to environment.
  • When this is read together with Articles 48A and 51A(g), there is a clear constitutional mandate to protect the environment that will only grow more important in the coming decades for citizens and the executive, legislature, and judiciary.
  • Central to these considerations is the need for a uniquely Indian climate narrative, one that is both by and for Indians.

Consider the question “Our constitutional values must guide us to a distinctly Indian, climate-friendly development paradigm to fulfil the constitutional commitment to its citizens. Comment.”


India can build its own pathway to become a climate leader aiming to secure a future where both people and nature can thrive. Much of this work can be rooted in the constitutional framework that binds together millions of Indians despite their myriad differences — a framework that is progressive in scope and ambitious in vision.

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