India Performed Worse Than Average in Upholding 13 Basic Human Rights, Report Says

Among South Asian countries, only Pakistan had performed worse than India on protecting 'quality of life' rights.

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New Delhi: India has performed worse than average in providing social and economic rights to its citizens when compared with its South Asian peers, a new report has revealed. India also performed poorly in providing civil and political rights to its citizens as compared to 37 countries, including the UK, the US, China, South Korea, Malaysia, etc.

The Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) – a global initiative to track the human rights performance of countries – has come up with scores for 13 rights, of which India has excelled in only one, i.e, freedom from the death penalty.

The Rights Tracker initiative aims to measure “country performance of every human right in international law”, according to HRMI. “We have begun with a collection of civil and political rights (Empowerment and Safety from the State rights), and a collection of economic and social rights (Quality of Life rights), each measured by a different method,” the organisation says.

The 13 rights are: the right to education, food, health, housing, work (under ‘quality of life’); freedom from arbitrary arrest, forced disappearance, death penalty, extrajudicial execution, torture and ill-treatment (under ‘safety from the state’); and right to assembly and association, opinion and expression, and participate in government (under ’empowerment’).

According to its website, HRMI is hosted by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research in Wellington, New Zealand.

‘Quality of life’

India performed worse than average on ‘quality of life’ when compared with its South Asian peers when data from 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, is considered, the 2022 HRMI report said. It scored 65.1% on ‘quality of life’ when measured against the ‘income adjusted’ benchmark.

Source: HRMI 2022

“This score tells us that India is only doing 65.1% [against the ‘Income adjusted’ benchmark] of what should be possible right now with the resources it has. Since anything less than 100% indicates that a country is not meeting its current duty under international human rights law, our assessment is that India has a very long way to go to meet its immediate economic and social rights duty,” the HRMI report said.

When compared to the best-performing countries in the world, India’s score falls further to 61.6%.

Among South Asian countries, Bangladesh performed close to average on ‘quality of life’ rights with a score of 73.5%, while Pakistan’s score stood at 63.3%. Sri Lanka scored better than average (86.4%) in providing basic rights to its citizens in 2019. Nepal (74.9%) and Bhutan (75.8%) performed close to average.

The organisation did not rate Afghanistan’s performance because the data was incomplete.

In 2019, India ranked 102 of 117 countries on the Global Hunger Index, behind its neighbours Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In 2020, India was ranked 94th out of 107 countries. In 2021, its rank dropped to 101 out of 116 countries.

Safety from the state and empowerment rights

India’s ‘safety from the state’ score of 4.6 out of 10 – when data from 2021 is considered – suggests that many people were not safe from one or more of the following: arbitrary arrest, torture and ill-treatment, forced disappearance, execution or extrajudicial killing, HRMI said.

With respect to empowerment rights – which include freedom of speech, assembly and association, and democratic rights – India performed worse than average, scoring 4.5 out of 10.

Also read: The Supreme Court Has Made Progress. It Now Directs ‘Those Seeking Justice’ to Be Put in the Dock

As per the report, several individuals and organisations that either speak against the government or fight for their own rights or for others are at risk of having their right to freedom from arbitrary arrest violated. These people are also at a risk of having their right to assembly or association violated, it added.

They include human rights advocates, people from the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Dalit communities, religious minorities, non-violent protesters (including anti-CAA, anti-farm laws protesters), labour rights advocates, students, journalists (who covered protests and cases of sexual violence against women), Kashmiris (irrespective of their location), etc.

The data on ‘safety from the state’ and ’empowerment’ rights were compared with 37 countries, including the UK, the US, South Korea, Malaysia, etc.

In the ‘safety from state’ category, the UK scored 7.6 out of 10, the US 4.3, China 2.8, South Korea 8.3, and Malaysia 6.9. In the ’empowerment’ rights category, the US scored 6.1 out of 10, UK 5.4, China 2.1, South Korea 7.1, and Malaysia 4.9.

On June 26, human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, whose NGO was involved in litigating cases stemming from the 2002 Gujarat riots, was arrested, after the Supreme Court cleared Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then chief minister of the state, of complicity in the violence. Several incidents of discrimination, violence and calls for genocide against Muslims, even in the presence of the ruling party leaders, were reported last year.

A journalist who had gone to Uttar Pradesh to report on the Hathras gang-rape case was arrested for sedition and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Activists Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam, who were protesting against the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), were also arrested under UAPA for an alleged conspiracy to incite violence. All three of them are still in jail.

According to a report by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, India is among the five most dangerous countries in terms of journalists killed across the world this year. Of the 46 journalists killed across the world last year for doing their work, India reported four fatalities after Mexico (7) and Afghanistan (6).

HRMI used an expert survey methodology in which it asked human rights experts, such as people working for human rights organisations; human rights lawyers; journalists specialising in social issues, and a series of detailed questions about government behaviour in the previous year.