Occasion of Human Rights Day presents us with an opportunity to reflect upon what it means to be a human being, and our role in enhancing the basic dignity of humankind. Our rights are our shared responsibility, said the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind. He was addressing the Human Rights Day celebrations in New Delhi today (December 10, 2021).
The President said that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights spells out a series of rights and freedoms every single human being is entitled to. These are inalienable rights, dependent solely on the fact that each person belongs to humanity, irrespective of ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, language and other divisions. With the Declaration, the global community made a formal recognition of basic human dignity though it has been part of our spiritual traditions for millennia.
The President noted that the theme of this year’s Human Rights Day is ‘Equality’. He said that Article 1 of the Universal Declaration states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” He stated that equality is the very soul of human rights. While non-discrimination is the first condition for absolute respect for human dignity, the world is beset with countless prejudices. They, unfortunately, hinder the full realisation of individuals’ potential, and thus are not in the interest of society as a whole. Human Rights Day is the ideal occasion for us to ponder collectively and find ways to overcome such prejudices that only hinder the progress of humanity.
The President said that on this day, the world should also debate and discuss the ‘Right to a Healthy Environment and Climate Justice’. The degradation of nature is leading to irreversible changes in climate and we are already witnessing its harmful impact. The world is waking up to the harsh reality, but it is yet to build the resolve to make decisive change. We owe it to our children that we save Mother Nature from the worst effects of industrialisation. The time is running out. He was happy to note that India has taken initiatives at home as well as at the recently held global climate conference, which would go a long way in restoring the health of the planet. Especially commendable is India’s leadership in the International Solar Alliance and a series of measures to promote green energy.
The President said that the humanity is grappling with the worst pandemic in the history. While the pandemic is not yet over, and the virus seems to be one step ahead of humankind, the world has so far responded to it by placing our trust in science and in global partnership. He said that though the pandemic affects the humanity universally, it is also seen that it has disproportionately devastating impact on the vulnerable sections of society. In this context, India, despite the obvious challenges, has been able to save millions of lives by adopting a policy of free and universal availability of vaccine. With the biggest vaccination exercise in history, the Government has also been able to provide protection against the virus to nearly a billion people. He praised doctors, scientists and all other ‘Corona Warriors’ for their heroic efforts to uphold people’s Right to Life and Right to Health.
The President said that in this battle with this invisible enemy, there have been multiple setbacks. During some of the more difficult times, institutions of the government tried their best to respond to a situation for which no amount of preparation could have been sufficient. He noted that the National Human Rights Commission, with its deep concern for the rights of the vulnerable and marginalised sections of society affected by the pandemic, issued several advisories, which helped in improving our response. The NHRC has worked with other stakeholders including civil society, media and individual activists to strengthen human rights.