S.D. Human Development, Research & Training Center | The Background The Background | S.D. Human Development, Research & Training Center
सनातन धर्म मानव विकास शोध एवम् प्रशिक्षण केन्द्र
Sanatan Dharma Human Development, Research & Training Center

The Background

Most ancient cultures, like the Indian, have been founded on the concept of fusion of rights and duties, maintaining a priority of duty over right. The transformation of the ancient Indian culture into a composite culture over the millennia, assimilating into itself the best of the various religions, has only strengthened the perception of the interrelationship of rights and duties. Hence the adage: ^^deZ.;sokf/kdkjLrsekQys”k qdnkpu** “Your right is in performance of your prescribed duty (duty is that which ought to be done), without expectation of any return”.

There are similar adages in other scriptures as well which highlight the role of duty in human life: “My duty towards God, and my duty towards my Neighbour”, and “To do towards all men, as I would like them to do to myself”. These and other similar teachings drawn from various religions are traditionally exhorted to the child by its mother, from generation to generation. Mahatma Gandhi said that he learnt from his illiterate but wise mother that “all rights to be deserved and preserved come from duty well done”. From this fundamental statement, it is easy enough to define duties and correlate every right to some corresponding duty which must be first performed. This cultural ethos is the foundation of the Indian society. It is, therefore, wrong to assume that human rights philosophy is essentially a western concept.

After the Second World War international community began with recognition of primacy of rights. It is now increasingly drifting towards the Indian ethos of giving equal emphasis to both rights and duties and their inter-relationships. Therefore, education must pay due attention to teaching human rights and duties and not merely human rights.


Human Rights and Duties (HRD) Education is important for the revival of the human values ingrained in the composite Indian culture and bring back the lost glory of the country. Dissemination of knowledge of human rights and duties must aim at bringing about attitudinal change in human behaviour. Civilization is built up, history made and progress achieved through purposeful education. It is time that education in India is oriented to assertion and enjoyment of rights, and develops a balanced approach to build rights-and-duties conscious society.

HRE is acquiring greater importance in the changing national and global scenario in the wake of globalization. While it is opening up new possibilities for realization of creative human potential, there are very disturbing trends in the forms of violence including terrorism within and across the Nation States. The Governments are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the complexity and magnitude of the problems. This new context may give rise to arbitrary exercise of power by organs of the State resulting in legitimacy crisis. The society should have enough of democratic potential where people, particularly the youth, would play a positive role in facing the new challenges. This is possible only when the people, the younger people in particular, in all walks of life are sensitized and humanized so that they will be a part of the solution and not of the problem. HRE can create the necessary moral, intellectual, and democratic resources for this purpose. The ultimate overall vision of building a humane, participatory and democratic society has to be promoted and sustained.

HRE has three dimensions: moral, legal and contextual. The ethical terrain of the human kind lies in its sensitivities and sensibilities which are rooted in the moral potential, which always reminds the people that the world can be a better place than what it is at a given point of time. The standard-setting exercise that international agencies like the UN took up from 1948 with the commencement of Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been an attempt in exploration of the ‘moral’ dimension of HRE. There was no year after 1948 when the UN did not come up with new fresh standards. Today, there are about one hundred documents in the form of Declarations, Conventions, Covenants and Treaties on human rights. The people all over the world should be enabled to appreciate the deepening of the scope and content of human rights, and their relevance to protect and enlarge human freedoms.

The second dimension of Human Rights Education is the rights that are already guaranteed by the Constitution and legal systems of the country. There have been varied laws enacted to ensure equity and justice. Effective enforcement is possible only when the law reigns supreme. It is necessary that a ‘rule of law’ culture is adequately institutionalized. Rule of law is an objective standard that has the potential to mediate the complex web of social interactions and tilt the balance of power in favour of the weak. The law enforcement agencies will have to be a part of this standard maintaining process. HRE should draw the law enforcing personnel more and more into this effort where they become life long learners.

The Armed Forces, Police Training Institutions and the other agencies have introduced HRE in their curriculum. This is a welcome change and it needs full support and encouragement. Legal literacy in the form of rights education is essential to ordinary people. It is more so to the marginalized and excluded sections like the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Backward Classes, minorities and women to make them aware of their rights. It would contribute to enhancement of dignity and self-respect of ‘downgraded’ human beings.

HRE should also focus on the concrete changing context and the growing concerns on how the Nation States are responding to these new challenges and devising the forms through which people can express their anger and anguish, but not necessarily through violent outbursts. A creative society will always find ways and means to channelize the human potential for constructive development of the society.

Human rights are in themselves ends as well as means. They are ends in terms of standards to be attained and are means as they enable and empower the people to use the rights to enjoy the rights. It is both an area of academic enquiry and also a part of every day life experience of humans as members of a society.

There are three components of the HRE Scheme:
a) human rights and duties;
b) human rights and values;
c) human rights and human development.

Human rights and duties

Although every right entails a duty, there has been a feeling in certain quarters that rights education is promoted and the question of duties has not been adequately addressed. In a society which emphasized on duties for centuries, rights education comes as a correction of historical distortions. The violation of rights could be corrected only when the privileged persons are reminded of their duties towards the marginalized sections, and the marginalized sections are gradually empowered through rights education. HRE at these levels would extend to such areas as gender equity, caste and community relations, majority-minority conflicts, ‘forward-backward’ dilemma and North-South power relations. In short, all power relations have to be humanized and democratized through restructuring of rights and duties. Human rights and values HRE will also focus on value education:

(a) One of the objectives is to create awareness and commitment to values where the
individualistic self-interest is properly reconciled with the collective and common good.
(b) There has to be a debate on universal values and relativistic values that are culturally
determined. The search for universal values assumes added importance in a globalizing
but fragmented world.
(c) The values like pluralism, respect for all religions, scientific temper, open mind,
public reasoning, all of which have been part of long Indian traditions, will have to be
sustained and promoted.

Human rights and human development

Rights are not only standards, but also claims of the citizens on the allocation of resources of the society. Indian economy is growing at a fast pace, but the economic disparities are also growing. It is necessary to recognize that development needs and
equity concerns should go hand in hand. Any level of material development will not lead to human happiness unless it values human life and provides the conditions for fuller realization of the human potential. Human being is both a subject and an object of development. The State has an obligation in the promotion and enforcement of the rights and has to envision rights approach to development. No doubt these obligations when they are carried out will lead to balanced human development. HRE will include all these components.