Right to clean living

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson Ranganath Mishra has asserted that environmental violations such as pollution and fouling up the atmosphere are tantamount to denial of the fundamental rights of people. The assertion marks the commission's slow but steady expansion of its area of operation and jurisdiction.

Responding to a spate of controversies over the commission's recent intervention in the arsenic poisoning of water in Calcutta, Mishra says, "Pollution and the atmospheric problem are, in our view, a part of Article 21 of the Constitution, and if so it is a fundamental right and certainly comes under human rights. We are supposed to create a situation in which life will be good and well lived. Thus, claims that the NHRC should not intervene in environmental issues as we do not have the requisite expertise are misdirected."

The commission has recently focused its attention on the never-ending problem of child labour. Referring to the government's hesitation in taking steps against this and eradicating the factors responsible, Mishra said that as an experiment the commission has started with the Firozabad glass industry, which employs about 6,200 children. "A study has been launched with a view to establish the causes behind the inclusion of children in labour," he said.