Shyam Prasad Adhikari
Senior Development Anthropologist, Nepal
Twenty years hence, there should be substantial reduction of poverty. The goal of the Millennium summit to which the member states of the U.N. pledged themselves- to reduce 'extreme consumption of poverty by half by the year 2025 - should be a key element of the vision of New Nepal. In the Rural Development Report 2001 and the World Development Report 2000-2001, poverty is conceived in a very broad sense; not only in terms of extreme deprivation but also in terms of other facets like vulnerability and powerlessness of the people. This will mean that attack on poverty should also conceive mechanisms to free the poor from their fetters and allow them to participate more carefully in the development processes. These will mean that multi-dimensional efforts are needed to eradicate poverty. It shall include measures such as land reforms, asset building of the poor, harnessing water resources, emphasis on food security aspects, education and health of the poor. The approach to the vision should be Right based. The concepts like growth with human face, safety nets etc. have worn out over the time and have actually not delivered. Therefore, the vision of the New Nepal should be a Right based approach for elimination of extreme deprivations. The National development programs may adopt, as its loadstone, Amartya Sen's development as freedom' perspective in which development is seen as freedom to participate in economic development and is also seen as freedom of different sorts like, for example, freedom to participate in economic activity, and freedom to have good health etc.
The current international economic scene is that of international integration. The experience shows that in the run up to international economic integration, social and economic rights as also human rights have suffered. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) mentions only five social and economic rights out of several (in fact 25) that are seen as substantive human rights. They are as under:
The main focus of the Declaration is on the rights that are usually seen as civil and political in nature, such as freedom from violence, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, protection against torture and so on and so forth. This development is most unfortunate from the perspective of human rights particularly because in the current process of economic integration, restructuring is taking place which adds to unemployment, casualization in security of jobs and greater informal sector activity. This is threatening the most basic of all human rights namely the right to adequate food. It is also threatening the right to medical care and basic social services which are integral part of the UDHR. It has been seen that while the process of greater economic integration through trade, investment and other capital flows have given rise to new opportunities, they have simultaneously made life much more insecure for most citizens of the world. The new Nepal must emphasize on this aspect of the current scenario.
Right to Entitlements: Over the period of time a set of basic entitlements have emerged, most of which are enforceable and others are likely to be either made so in due course or would become so on account of the judicial activism interventions. The evolution of entitlements into rights depends on the democratic political process nudged by factors such as social movements of marginalized groups. Intervention by established institutions like legislature and courts can also play an important role. The Nepali experience in this regard during the last three decades is not quite impressive and positive in many ways. The core set of entitlements therefore, should comprise of the followings:
· The right to work and livelihood
· The right to food and nutrition
· The right to health
· The right to education
· The right to shelter
· The right to land water and other common property resources.
1. Procedures and mechanisms to facilitate fulfillment of the above noted entitlements to be worked out and special efforts to be made to ensure that they are availed of by the most vulnerable and marginalized section of the society.
2. It is also suggested that the term ‘vulnerable and disadvantaged groups’ must be explicitly defined to include the physical and mentally challenged, widows and the elderly, apart from the traditionally disadvantaged castes, classes and social groups.
3. As the primary responsibility for ensuring these rights lies with the State, a system for enforcing transparent accountability need to be devised through a participatory approach involving, particularly, the marginalized group.
4. Several efforts to be synergized. Duplications, negative consequences (such as fulfillment of one right negating the other to be avoided.
5. Devolution of authority to decentralized structures of governance, so as to ensure the above listed entitlements, accompanied by matching devolution of financial, administrative and other resources. Appropriate institutional structures to be designed and put in place to ensure that jobs are performed in a transparent manner and entitlements reach to intended beneficiaries, without compromising the rights and liberties guaranteed by the constitution.
6. The entitlement claims of certain segments of the social not be allowed to erode entitlements, create disentitlements, or impair the pre-existing entitlements of the disadvantaged groups or of their livelihoods safety nets.
7. Macroeconomic strategies in the context of ongoing economic reforms not to lead to a distraction from, or a dilution of, the commitments of the State, especially to the most vulnerable groups.
8. While there are universalities about entitlements, regional specificities to be taken note of in the process of making the entitlements available to the people.
9. Requires necessary guarantees and sanctions to be built into the new constitution. In this context, an action plan, stating the time-frame and targets for the execution to be worked out.
Special mention needs to be made about the food insecure households in Nepal today. It has been established that most food insecure households in Nepal are more prone to seasonal food distress rather than chronic food insecurity. The issue is not only of shortage of food grains in isolated pockets but also lack of purchasing power. Social scientists have mooted the concept of Grain Banks or DHARMA BHAKARI traditional to Nepali society to meet the challenge of food insecurity of the most vulnerable ones. With the initial Grain Capital provided through the Public Distribution System (PDS), these Banks or DHARMA BHAKARIs can provide full entitlements for the scarcity period to every member household against repayment in labor or food grains in the future. This would effectively utilize the main asset of the poor namely his labor and also would free him from food and nutritional insecurity. Nepal being predominantly an agrarian country, it will free the country also from the huge loss of face and shame that we have the largest quantity of food grains stock and the largest number of food insecurity people in the world.
Exclusive for telegraphnepal.com