Reading Comprehension Challenge - Passage on 'Relationship Between Human Development and Human Rights'

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    06 January at 09:00 AM

Passage on - Relationship Between Human Development and Human Rights

Read the passage carefully and answer the questions given below.

It may seem that development is concerned with the standard of living and quality of life, while human rights are derived from notions of civil liberties and individual freedom. However, if we look carefully, we find that development can be defined as an expansion of people’s capabilities and opportunities, and an increase in their freedom of choice to the lives they lead. Similarly, human rights are also not merely limited to civil liberties; economic rights and the right to development can be brought under this ambit. The role of the state goes beyond a protective one to a promotional one. Once it is realized that freedom does not simply mean freedom from something but it also means opportunities. The focus of attention becomes the domain of opportunities that have to grow and develop and to meet their needs and to realize their capabilities.

This is a fruitful way to look at the concept of development in terms of opportunities, functioning, and capabilities. Amartya Sen has urged the adoption of a capability-based as against a Commodity-centred (or what he calls the ‘opulence’ approach) or even a utilitarian view of development. Looking at the concept of freedom in this manner, the notion of rights takes the form of right to something. Freedom is not just freedom from something; it can also mean freedom to do something or freedom to have access to something. This ‘something’ in our case is basic human needs.

Now along with oppression, deprivation, (or rather, its lack), has also been made a part of the concept of human rights. This is especially true in the case of economic rights. Here deprivation can be used in two senses – first, some individuals may be deprived of something, may lack something all throughout; secondly, individuals may have had these things but have had these snatched away, taken away through exploitation or aggression. In this latter sense, deprivation becomes a part of oppression.

In the first sense of deprivation that we have used, in which individuals have never had the things or items germane to our discussion, where there has been a constant lack, there can be reasons other than oppression for this deprivation. The people may simply be very poor, for instance. If the full potential of a person is not allowed to blossom, if the person fails to realize her latent capabilities, it is-deprivation in the sense of not being allowed entitlements or optimal human potential. With regard to oppression, the idea of human rights seeks to determine minimum levels or thresholds, so that if people are pushed below these levels, we can say that oppression and hence human rights violation has taken place.

How can these minimum threshold levels be determined? These thresholds can be determined by invoking the three principles of security, identity, and participation. Security means personal security, access to a secure livelihood, and a claim to privacy; identity implies one’s cultural and social identity is protected; and participation involves being allowed to participate in the economic and political life of one’s community, society or state. The approach based on rights goes further than the basic needs approach in the sense that it injects an element of accountability to the whole process. The government is held to be responsible for providing and promoting the rights of people to these basic needs as well as ensuring that these rights are not infringed upon.

Like other human rights, economic rights are expressions of human dignity, which are common to all of humanity. Since we should look at all aspects of rights in totality, the approach to economic rights should be no different from that to other rights. Focusing on economic rights involves going beyond some entrenched ideas of “development”, since that term, if interpreted in a particular way, can lead thousands of people to a sorry plight, through disenfranchisement, dislocation, and deprivation.

The development process has in some cases led to overconsumption of exhaustible resources, the devastation of nature, and the dislocation of marginal people. It has led to a disparity in the standards of living of the countries of the North and those of the South, and within countries, especially of the South. It is partly to address these issues that the concept of sustainable development was developed, but the concept of economic rights goes beyond this as well. Its aim is to help create an international political and legal framework to ensure that the path of sustainable development is followed and basic needs are met.

A basic point about economic rights needs to be always kept in mind. Normally, while talking about rights in general, we speak of human rights violations. In other words, people have rights, which are taken away; here the state should be in the dock. But in the case of economic rights, rights are in the sense of people being allowed to realize their capabilities. The state should ensure people’s entitlement to various goods and services, which meet the basic needs. The state should provide these goods and services. Here the distinction between protective and promotional roles that we talked of earlier becomes important.

A related point is that experiences of the operation of markets in various countries have shown that there are certain groups in society that are vulnerable to ill-health, disease and general poverty and deprivation as the economy functions. In this regard, the state undertakes a certain set of actions that are described under the rubric of ‘social security’.

Q.1. Which of the following society groups, according to the passage has been considered under the rubric of ‘social security’?

(a) The needy people of the society.

(b) People who are vulnerable to ill-health, disease, and general poverty and deprivation.

(c) The old aged people.

(d) The people who don’t realize their capabilities.


Q.2. Which of the following is not true in the context of the passage?

(a) The government is held to be responsible for providing and promoting the rights of people.

(b) Security as access to secure livelihood and a claim to privacy is not part of the rights of people.

(c) The government should ensure that human rights are not violated.

(d) The development process has led to overconsumption of exhaustible resources.


Q.3. Which of the following, according to the author is/ are the reasons for oppression?

(a) Due to deprivation or lack of basic necessities.

(b) Due to force or exploitation.

(c) Due to an unjustified attitude towards an individual.

(d) Only (1) and (2)


Q.4. What does the author want to imply from the line “freedom does not simply mean freedom from something but it also means opportunities”?

(a) Opportunities are not the cause of individual freedom, but a consequence of such freedom.

(b) Freedom is having the ability to act or change without constraint.

(c) Freedom gives you access to a range of desirable opportunities, regardless of whether you decide to take advantage of those opportunities or not.

(d) Freedom is a license to do whatever we want to do and there would not be any restrictions.


Answers & Explanations:

1. (b); Option (a), (c) and (d) are incorrect. Option (a) is a vague option as it has not mentioned the specific group. A needy person can be anyone who wishes for something, thus uncertain in meaning. Option (c) particularly talks about old aged people which is too specific in meaning hence eliminated. Option (d) is incorrect as it is out of context as mentioned in the last paragraph. Whereas, option (b) can be easily considered from the last paragraph.

2. (b); All the given options are true except for (b). Option (b) denotes that a claim to privacy or security is not a part of people’s rights, which is incorrect as the author himself stressed on this point in the 5th paragraph.

3. (d); From the 3rd paragraph, it is apparent that both “Deprivation” and “ Force” are responsible for Oppression.

4. (c); The correct option is (c). From the line “freedom does not simply mean freedom from something but it also means opportunities”, the author wants to imply that freedom is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to access opportunities, which make option (c) the most valid answer. The other options seem to be correct but none of them are mentioned in the passage.


Important Vocabulary:

(i) Germane (adjective) - Relevant to a subject under consideration

Synonyms: Applicable, Pertinent, Apt, Relevant

Antonyms: Improper, Irrelevant, Unfitting, Inappropriate

Sentence Examples:

  • We shall borrow some hints from it, germane to our present theme.
  • To do so would be to treat the creatures by law not germane to their nature.


(ii) Threshold (noun) - The magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested

Synonyms: Brink, Verge, Point, Outset

Antonyms: Middle, Conclusion, Completion, End

Sentence Examples:

  • Their water would meet the safety threshold of 50 milligrams of nitrates per liter.
  • He has a low boredom threshold.


(iii) Invoke (verb) - Cite or appeal to (someone or something) as an authority for an action or in support of an argument

Synonyms: Adjure, Conjure, Beseech, Crave

Antonyms: Answer, Reply, Leave, Depart

Sentence Examples:

  • The antiquated defense of insanity is rarely invoked in England.
  • She invoked his help against this attack.


(iv) Infringe (verb) - Act so as to limit or undermine (something); encroach on

Synonyms: Breach, Offend, Disobey, Intrude

Antonyms: Give, Obey, Comply, Observe

Sentence Examples:

  • Such widespread surveillance could infringe on personal liberties.
  • Making an unauthorized copy would infringe copyright.