x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

India's human-rights submission is 'disappointing', says working groups

India's human-rights record has come under scrutiny after a peer review process in Geneva, conducted under the auspices of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights.

NEW DELHI // India's human-rights record has come under scrutiny after a peer review process in Geneva, conducted under the auspices of the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On Thursday, an Indian delegation made its submissions to the Universal Periodic Review, a process in which all UN member states have their human-rights records appraised about every four years.

But an independent Indian working group, consisting of 14 human-rights organisations working in the country, has called the Indian government's submission "disappointing" and lacking in "critical analysis of the actual realisation of rights."

Human rights are routinely infringed in India, according to the working group - which travelled to Geneva to conduct a parallel event - in forced land acquisitions for industrial and corporate projects, in the use of security laws that give the armed forces extraordinary powers, and in the failure to ratify the UN's Convention against Torture.

India's attorney general, Goolam Vahanvati, who led his country's official delegation to Geneva, acknowledged in the opening statement of his presentation that India continued to face challenges in meeting its human-rights obligations.

"India is a huge country and by reason of its area and diversity alone there are bound to be problems," Mr Vahanvati said. "We cannot wish away problems." But India, he added, "has the ability to self correct and has redressal mechanisms available."

When India first appeared for its Universal Periodic Review, in 2008, it received 18 recommendations designed to improve its human-rights record.

These recommendations ranged from expediting the ratification of the Convention against Torture, maintaining data on caste discrimination, addressing economic inequalities rising out of rapid growth, and eliminating child labour.

In the current cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, which runs until June 4, India has been asked to show the progress made on these recommendations.

Mr. Vahanvati pointed to a number of legislative measures - including a rural employment guarantee act, a Right to Education act, a Right to Information act, and a food security bill recently introduced into parliament - as evidence that India was making progress on aspects of human rights.

But Indian civil society organisations have found these measures insufficient and have found a lack of progress in other areas.

For example, Prafulla Samantra, president of an NGO called the People's Empowerment Movement, pointed out that land continues to be acquired by force from the poor, from tribals, and from the lower Dalit castes. "Economic growth is taking place by destroying livelihoods and further impoverishing the most marginalised groups," Mr Samantra said.

ssubramanian@thenational.ae

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