Notes of Ch 5 Rights| Class 11th Political Science

What are Rights?

• A right is essentially an entitlement or a justified claim. It denotes what we are entitled to as citizens, as individuals and as human beings.

• In fact, one of the grounds on which rights have been claimed is that they represent conditions that we collectively see as a source of self-respect and dignity.

• Another ground on which rights have been claimed is that they are necessary for our well-being. They help individuals to develop their talents and skills.

Where do Rights come from?

• In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, political theorists argued that rights are given to us by nature or God. This meant that rights were not conferred by a ruler or a society, rather we are born with them.

• In recent years, the term human rights is being used more than the term natural rights because the idea of there being a natural law, or a set of norms that are laid down for us by nature, or God, appears unacceptable today.

• Rights are increasingly seen as guarantees that human beings themselves seek or arrive at in order to lead a minimally good life.

• This conception of a free and equal self is increasingly being used to challenge existing inequalities based on race, caste, religion and gender.

• The notion of universal human rights has been used by oppressed people all over the world to challenge laws which segregate them and deny them equal opportunities and rights.

• The list of human rights which people have claimed has expanded over the years as societies face new threats and challenges. For example, people are very conscious today of the need to protect the natural environment and this has generated demands for rights to clean air, water, sustainable development, and the like.

Legal Rights and the State

• A Bill of Rights is enshrined in the constitutions of many countries.

• In India, we call them Fundamental Rights.

• The rights mentioned in the Constitution would be those which are considered to be of basic importance. In some cases these may be supplemented by claims which gain importance because of the particular history and customs of a country.

• The legal and constitutional recognition of our claims are so important that several theorists define rights as claims that are recognised by the state.

• However, in most cases the claimed rights are directed towards the state. That is, through these rights people make demands upon the state. Thus, rights place an obligation upon the state to act in certain kinds of ways.

• Rights not only indicate what the state must do, they also suggest what the state must refrain from doing.

• Our rights ensure that the authority of the state is exercised without violating the sanctity of individual life and liberty.

Kinds of Rights

Political Rights

• Political rights give to the citizens the right to equality before law and the right to participate in the political process.

• They include such rights as the right to vote and elect representatives, the right to contest elections, the right to form political parties or join them.

• Political rights are supplemented by civil liberties.

• Collectively, civil liberties and political rights form the basis of a democratic system of government.

• Political rights protect the well-being of the individual by making the government accountable to the people, by giving greater importance to the concerns of the individual over that of the rulers and by ensuring that all persons have an opportunity to influence the decisions of the government.

Economic Rights

• Basic needs, of food, shelter, clothing, health are essential parts of Economic Rights.

• Democratic societies are beginning to provide economic rights.

• In some countries, citizens, particularly those with low incomes, receive housing and medical facilities from the state; in others, unemployed persons receive a certain minimum wage so that they can meet their basic needs.

• In India the government has recently introduced a rural employment guarantee scheme, among other measures to help the poor.

Cultural Rights

• More and more democracies are recognising the cultural claims of their citizens.

• The right to have primary education in one’s mother tongue, the right to establish institutions for teaching one’s language and culture, are today recognised as being necessary for leading a good life.

Rights and Responsibilities

• Rights not only place obligations upon the state to act in a certain way but they also place obligations upon each of us.

• Firstly, they compel us to think not just of our own personal needs and interests but to defend some things as being good for all of us.

• Secondly, they require that an individual respect the rights of others. If an individual say that I must
be given the right to express my views the he must also grant the same right to others.

• Thirdly, we must balance our rights when they come into conflict. For example, my right to freedom of expression allows me to take pictures; however, if I take pictures of a person bathing in his house
without his consent and post them on the internet, that would be a violation of his right to privacy.

• Fourthly, citizens must be vigilant about limitations which may be placed on their rights. A currently debated topic concerns the increased restrictions which many governments are imposing on the civil liberties of citizens on the grounds of national security.

• Even though rights can never be absolute, we need to be vigilant in protecting our rights and those of others for they form the basis of a democratic society.
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