At FORUM-ASIA, we employ a range of strategies to effectively achieve our goals and create a lasting impact.

Through a diverse array of approaches, FORUM-ASIA is dedicated to achieving our objectives and leaving a lasting imprint on human rights advocacy.

Who we work with

Our interventions are meticulously crafted and ready to enact tangible change, addressing pressing issues and empowering communities.

Each statements, letters, and publications are meticulously tailored, poised to transform challenges into opportunities, and to empower communities towards sustainable progress.

Multimedia Stories

With a firm commitment to turning ideas into action, FORUM-ASIA strives to create lasting change that leaves a positive legacy for future generations.

Explore our dedicated sub-sites to witness firsthand how FORUM-ASIA turns ideas into action, striving to create a legacy of lasting positive change for future generations.

Subscribe our monthly e-newsletter

India’s hunger for economic, social and cultural rights

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESR) in Geneva has drawn attention to the impediments to the realization of economic, social and cultural rights, especially the right to food, in India.

India’s hunger for economic, social and cultural rights

The 40th session of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) which concluded on 16 May found that India has fallen short of its legal obligations arising under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) by not effectively combating the discrimination, harassment and inequalities faced by disadvantaged and marginalised groups.

Numerous communications sent to the Committee indicated that there were widespread gender inequalities, cultural stereotypes and personal laws on minority groups. These include India’s lack of progress in eliminating traditional practices and provisions of personal status laws that were harmful and discriminatory to women and girls.

Other issues of concern include the high levels of poverty and the serious food insecurity and shortages, as well as the extreme hardship being experienced by farmers resulting in increasing incidence of suicides by farmers over the past decade.

India acceded to the ICESCR on 10 April 1979. Since then, the Supreme Court of India has made significant contributions to the development of international jurisprudence in favour of the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights through its proactive interpretations of the Constitution.

The Indian Supreme Court has viewed fundamental rights and Directive Principles of State Policy which contains many provisions of the ICESCR as being complementary and that neither part being superior to the other. However, even though the jurisprudence with respect to these rights in India has been groundbreaking, the non-implementation of court decisions by state authorities is unacceptable.

The Committee noted that the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights is highly relevant in the context of the contemporary food crisis. It was “extremely alarmed at the rapid worldwide rise in food prices and the soaring energy prices that had precipitated a global food crisis and were adversely affecting the right to adequate food and freedom from hunger, as well as other human rights.”

In India, despite rapid economic growth, high levels of poverty and serious food insecurity persists in the country, disproportionately affecting the population living in the poorer states and in rural areas. Related to this are allegations of corruption, inefficiency and discrimination in distribution that hamper access to food, especially for the disadvantaged and marginalised groups.

A related concern is that extreme poverty among small-hold farmers is being caused by the lack of land, access to credit and adequate rural infrastructures, and this has been exacerbated by the introduction of genetically modified seeds by multinational corporations.

The government’s debt forgiveness policy has done little to alleviate the burden as most of the debt was accumulated from loan sharks. It is apparent that strong state policies are needed to reform the primary sector to ensure food security and price security.

In fact, the Committee “urged India, in addition to the full implementation of the planned farmer debt waiver programme, to take all necessary measures to address the extreme poverty among small-holding farmers and to increase agricultural productivity as a matter of priority.”

The Committee has noted that with India’s contributions to the justiciability of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the recent ratification of several international instruments, the country is moving forward in promoting and protecting its citizens’ human rights.

Nevertheless, a lot more needs to be done in this regard. It is imperative that all sectors of Indian society, including disadvantaged and marginalised groups, benefit from India’s rapid growth and economic prominence. In fact, the Committee’s General Comment No.18 on the right to work states that in stimulating economic growth and development, “effective measures to increase the resources allocated to reducing the unemployment rate, in particular among women, the disadvantaged and marginalised, should be taken by States parties.”

This is precisely what India must do to ensure the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights for all. It is on these grounds that India should bring its domestic legislation into accord with its court decisions and international human rights obligations.