Speech on 'Redressing Inequalities: Delivering on Dignity and Well-being for allh of Hon'ble Speaker, Lok Sabha during 136th Assembly of the IPU in Dhaka, Bangladesh from 1-5 April 2017.
Honfble Chairman, Distinguished Delegates,
Liberty and equality are considered to be the two most valuable rights of the people and are also regarded as the two basic pillars of democracy. Equality is a prerequisite of democracy as it is believed the more inclusive and equal a society is, the more likely it is to be politically stable and sustainable. Persistent inequalities in a society can jeopardize the well-being of large segments of the population. For example, low earnings, inequality in income and unequal access to resources and denial of political and social rights could undermine socio-economic and political stability.
Distinguished delegates, we have been an active partner in the drafting of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The Founding Fathers of our Constitution incorporated most of the rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in two distinct Parts in our Constitution: they are the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy. The chief architect of our Constitution, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, had firmly believed that political freedom without socio-economic equality could destabilize the nation and create fissures within the society. The Constitution of India seeks to secure for all its citizens, among other things, social and economic justice, equality of status and opportunity and assures the dignity of the individual. The Preamble to our Constitution defines equality as one of the four basic objectives of the Indian polity, the other three being Justice, Liberty and Fraternity. I appreciate that IPU, since its inception, has been a premier organization that supports the efforts and works in close co-operation with the@United Nations to achieve its objectives and has been a focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue to secure peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy.
Hon'ble Chairperson, the socio-political ethos in India flows from our Constitution. The Fundamental Rights act as a guarantee that all Indian citizens can and will enjoy civil liberties and basic rights. These civil liberties take precedence over any other law of the land. Our Constitution also provides for adult franchise irrespective of class, caste, sex and religion to all its citizens. Further, we have adopted the concept of a welfare state in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth and it is incumbent up on the State to ensure that necessary measures be taken to bring the underprivileged to the mainstream.
There has been no dearth of social, economic, political and legal efforts to achieve an equitable society in India. A number of legislative enactments have been made towards providing protection and empowerment to women and girls. To ensure gender equality at the grassroot level and to politically empower both the rural and urban women, the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments provided for reservation of 33 per cent of seats for women in the local bodies of governance that is in the Panchayats and Municipal Bodies, to facilitate their full involvement in the local decision making processes. It also provides for at least one-third reservation for women to the office of Chairperson in these bodies. Some of the Indian States have already raised the reservation level up to 50 per cent to provide for still wider participation. A Bill proposing to reserve one third seats for women in the national and state legislatures is under consideration in our Parliament. I can say with conviction that it may not be long before this legislation enters the statute list of our country.
Besides, a number of legislations have been enacted from time to time to end discrimination against vulnerable groups of people especially of the backward classes and to promote their full and effective participation in the system and to facilitate growth in their economic, social, and cultural fields. In pursuance of the provisions of the Constitution, several initiatives and legislations have been taken by the Government for the welfare and empowerment of persons with disabilities, older persons, transgender etc.
Distinguished delegates, India has well placed institutional mechanism, dedicated Ministries and National Commissions to cater to the welfare of the people of the disadvantaged groups. The National Human Rights Commission is an embodiment of India's commitment towards the promotion and protection of human rights. We have National Commissions for women to safeguard and promote the rights and interests of women. It has a wide mandate covering almost all aspects of womenfs development. We also have Commissions for the minorities and for the backward classes of people to look after their welfare and protect their rights.
Over the years, since our independence, many schemes have been introduced and implemented by different Ministries and Departments both at the State and Union level for bringing a just and equitable society in our country. The success of these schemes and programmes has considerably contributed towards achieving the targets of the MDGs particularly by addressing inequalities and ensuring inclusive development. The recent endorsement by India, of the ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals will further help in bridging the gaps and support our endeavours for achieving equitable development by addressing the key challenges such as poverty, inequality, and violence against women, which is critical for the global success of the goals as well. India has already started working towards mapping of the SDGs against national achievements.
Hon'ble Chairperson, I may also draw the attention of this Assembly to the fact that India has ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments created for promoting equality and well-being for all. The commitments made in the international conventions are, as far as possible, reflected in our development Plan documents and the national policies for girls and women, youth, minorities, etc.
Distinguished delegates, a major challenge of human development for the next two decades will be to work cohesively for poverty reduction and social progress in ways that narrow the gaps, address their causes and link greater governmental accountability for all inhabitants with social and individual responsibility, capacities and participation. Democracy is expected to sustain and promote equality as it provides the space for discussion on laws and human rights and for the articulation of opinions encompassing the interests of all. Our Parliament has been making its contributions in the spheres of gender justice, empowerment of backward classes and their overall development, covering health, education, nutrition, sanitation etc. through a number of enabling legislations. It reflects the sincere efforts made towards achieving an equitable society free of all forms of discrimination and inequality.
Let us all be acutely aware that many aspects of existing inequalities have global linkages and ramifications and as such solutions to many of them can be achieved only through sustained global efforts. As we all recognize, serious environmental concerns, which impinge up on today's debate on development, needs to be addressed collectively by us all. All solutions to such concerns need to factor in the imperative of the less developed part of the world also to reach at least the minimum standards of living for all their people. Let us all commit together to work towards achieving equitable development protecting the dignity and well being of all.
Before I conclude, let me share with you all that recently in India, we had organized a South Asian Speakers Conference recently. The Presiding Officers of the South Asian Countries have unequivocally agreed to work in tandem to address the issues of inequality among the citizens in different spheres. There is no doubt that together we can address the issue effectively and efficiently. I hope, the IPU will act as a catalyst in achieving these larger objectives. Thank you.