In December 2018, the Indian government initiated the process of developing a Business and Human Rights National Action Plan (NAP) by releasing a zero draft The zero draft is primarily a listing of relevant existing legislation and policies categorised under the three pillars outlined in the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).
The final zero draft was scheduled to be published by 2020 but has yet not been published by the Indian Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Recently, it gathered more attention as this NAP would have helped the affected during the COVID pandemic. Migrant workers and business operators could have been protected from this exposure.
In this article, we bring focus to the objectives and need for a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. The topic is also important from the IAS Exam perspective.
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About Business and Human Rights NAP
- In 2014, United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) asked its member states to develop a NAP, promoting the effective implementation of the UNGPs
- The National Action Plan will provide a legal framework in India, wherein, steps shall be taken against any case of human rights violation, set the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, and also access any remedy against business-related human rights violation
- In wake of taking steps in favour of the importance of business-related human rights, the National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business (NVGs) were introduced in 2011. It was updated to the National Guidelines on Responsible Business Conduct (NGRBC)
What is the need for Business and Human Rights NAP?
- The Covid pandemic in the country acted as a wake-up signal for the authorities to have a systematic approach to manage the vulnerable business operators affected. As per an estimate by the International Labour Organization (ILO), lakhs of migrant workers and labours have sunk even deeper into poverty
- India is a signatory of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which follows and promotes the principle of Protect-Respect-Remedy
- Another important reason why this NAP is important is that the Sustainable Development Goal target (SDG 8) which is to be fulfilled by 2030 talks about human rights in the business sector
The pandemic has also left a huge impact on the economy in the country and across the globe. Visit Coronavirus & Impact on Economy: RSTV for more information.
What is the vision of India’s NAP?
Indian National Action Plan is based on the Gandhian principle of trusteeship. It defines that the purpose of business is to serve all stakeholders.
The NAP draft must be in line with the three pillars of UNGPs:
- The State Duty to Protect Human Rights
- The Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights
- Access to Remedy
What factors together will contribute to Business and Human Rights NAP?
A Working Group constituting representatives from relevant Ministries/Government Departments, NHRC, SEBI, etc. will together work on drafting and implementation of the NAP draft. The factors which need to be kept in consideration include:
- Undertake a comprehensive study to assess the implementation of UNGPs in India through a review of India’s legal and policy framework
- Identify key priority areas for the Government for effective implementation of the principles envisaged under the UNGPs and accordingly set objectives
- Prepare time‐bound policy actions to achieve objectives
- Articulate clear responsibilities of relevant Ministries/Department of the Government of India
Examples of Conflict in Business and Human Rights
In the past few years, many cases have been filed for violation of Business and Human Rights. Given below are the same:
- Nestle Maggi Case – A case was registered as the packet of Maggi mentioned “no added MSG”. This label created chaos and defending it, Nestle SA justified this act by stating that “Everyone in the industry was doing it”
- By law, advertising tobacco products near school premises is prohibited. At the same time, tobacco giant ITC Ltd’s school notebooks are being used by children in the school
- Various plants and offices have been shut in the past decade for violation of business and human rights. These include Coca Cola Co’s plant in Plachimada which was shut in 2004; Hindustan Unilever Ltd’s (mercury) factory in Kodaikanal in 2001 and Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi in 2018, among many others
Thus, having set rules and regulations which are legal and ethical must be set up by the concerned authorities for the Business and Human Rights NAP.
National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights – Way Forward
- All Educational Institutions must ensure that Business and Human Rights are included in the management curriculum.
- The Ease of Doing Business must include an indicator regarding human rights so that people rightfully do their businesses
- Powers must be given to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) so that quick and efficient steps can be taken against the violators
- The focus must be on building the Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises(MSME) to help them adapt to the NAP draft as they cover a major part of the Indian business sector
- In India, the technology sector has been growing manifolds over the past few years. Thus, NAP should ensure that the technology companies embed accountability on human rights issues
- All National and State Commissions must issue strict guidelines ensuring that no incident of violation of human rights is ignored and left unattended
Frequently Asked Questions about National Action Plan
What is a National Action Plan?
What is a critical issue regarding the implementation of an NAP?
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