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The Making of India’s ‘Right to Food Act’

Bailey, Sara (2018) The Making of India’s ‘Right to Food Act’. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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This thesis critically analyses the scholarly literature on the creation of human rights law in light of the author’s empirical investigation into the making of India’s ‘right to food act’. Human rights law is increasingly being used to combat poverty, but influential critics of human rights law are sceptical about the law’s capacity in this regard. Two critiques are of particular relevance to this study. The first is that human rights are minimalist i.e. they only provide for basic needs and do not address economic inequality (or, therefore, ‘relative poverty’). The second critique – which proceeds from the first – is that in contexts characterised by economic inequality, the poor are often unable to exercise their formally-accorded rights because they lack the ‘moral and material resources’ needed to do so. This thesis appraised these critiques and found that they are, in the main, valid. However, to reject human rights law on this basis is short-sighted. The construction of human rights law is a social process and it is argued in this study that there is no inherent reason why human rights law could not, in the future, develop in a manner which overcomes the problems presently associated with it. In order to gain insights into the reasons why human rights law is constructed in the way that it is, this thesis studied the social processes involved in the creation of India’s ‘Right to Food Act’. The findings shed new light on the potential and limitations of human rights. The content of the Act supports the contention that human rights are minimalist. However, an analysis of the social processes involved in its creation demonstrates that its content was not in some way ‘preordained’. It was shaped by a diversity of ideas and processes of contestation between a diversity of actors. It is conceivable that had particular circumstances been different, the Right to Food Act could have addressed at least some of the causes of economic inequality in India. This thesis therefore concludes that in order to meaningfully evaluate the potential and limitations of human rights law, further studies of the social processes involved in its creation need to be conducted.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Human Rights Centre
Depositing User: Sara Bailey
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2018 12:55
Last Modified: 05 Dec 2018 12:55

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