Shining a Light in the Darkness: How The Karnataka Model Bridges Economic Divides and Advances Human Rights

by | Mar 27, 2024

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About Jehosh Paul

Jehosh Paul is a lawyer and research consultant. He holds an LLM in Law and Development from the Azim Premji University, Bengaluru.

In a world where the economic divide between the rich and poor is ever widening, recent Oxfam reports have highlighted the widening chasm between the affluent and the impoverished in India, revealing a scenario where prosperity is a privilege of the few. Amidst this challenging backdrop, the state of Karnataka has emerged as a beacon of hope and change. Known as the ‘Karnataka Model’, the state’s innovative approach weaves together governance and social welfare through its five guarantee schemes. This model not only showcases the potential of targeted state-led interventions to uplift millions from poverty but also champions the principles of human rights.

Human Rights and the Karnataka Model

Central to the Karnataka Model is a commitment to reducing economic inequality and elevating families out of poverty. The state’s initiatives, as articulated by Governor Thawar Chand Gehlot, has dramatically improved the socio-economic status of over 12 million families by uplifting them to middle-class stature. This has been achieved through an array of interventions that has positively impacted food security, access to healthcare, and education. This monumental achievement not only signifies a reduction in poverty, but also underlines the state’s dedication to the right to an adequate standard of living, which is a core principle of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and echoed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The Five Guarantees: A Multifaceted Approach to Welfare

The five guarantee schemes: Shakti, Annabhagya, Gruha Jyoti, Gruha Lakshmi, and Yuvanidhi, collectively contribute to the holistic development of the state’s residents.

Shakti, by facilitating over 1500 million trips for women passengers in state-run buses, has not only enhanced women’s mobility but has also empowered them through ensuring safer and more accessible public transportation options. This initiative aligns with Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which stipulates the right to freedom of movement.

Annabhagya, addresses the fundamental human right to food by freely providing food grains to millions of beneficiaries. This initiative aligns with Article 11 of ICESCR, which recognises the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living and to be free from hunger. This is also in line with Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aims to end hunger and achieve food security.

The Gruha Jyoti, has been a beacon of hope for 16 million consumers by providing free electricity up to 200 units per month. By subsidising electricity, the scheme further supports Article 11 of the ICESCR, which through the right to an adequate standard of living includes adequate food, clothing, and housing, and the continuous improvement of living conditions. Access to energy is also highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goal 7, which aims to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.

Through the Gruha Lakshmi financial assistance has been directly transferred to 11.7 million women beneficiaries, promoting economic independence and security. This aligns with the Article 13 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which aims to eliminate discrimination against women in all areas, including economic and social life. This also is in accordance with Article 9 of the ICCPR which guarantees the right to liberty and security of person. By enhancing the women’s economic status, Gruha Lakshmi directly contributes to their personal security and freedom as it protects them from various forms of economic coercion and enables them to make independent choices, live with dignity and participate more fully in social and economic life.

Lastly, the Yuvanidhi, addresses the right to work and to an adequate standard of living by providing unemployment allowances to graduates and diploma holders. This scheme aligns with Article 6 read with the preamble of the ICESCR, which not only recognizes the right to work as an essential aspect of human dignity but also construes the right to work as the opportunity for everyone to gain a living by work that they freely choose or accept. Yuvanidhi contributes to this by offering financial support during periods of unemployment, thus mitigating the immediate pressures and allowing individuals the time and resources to find suitable employment that aligns with their skills, interests, and dignity, rather than forcing them into unsuitable or precarious jobs out of financial necessity.

A Blueprint for Human Rights Fulfilment

The Five Guarantees represent a multifaceted approach to social welfare and human rights, addressing critical areas such as gender equality, food security, energy access, economic independence, and employment. Collectively, these schemes illustrate the Karnataka model’s comprehensive strategy for enhancing the quality of life and advancing human rights. The documented success in uplifting millions from poverty exemplifies the tangible impact of governance rooted in human rights principles. As Karnataka continues to set a precedent, it invites global reflection on the transformative power of governance that places human dignity and rights at its core.

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