The right, to a clean environment and water is the fundamental right of the citizens of India. As per the Article 21 of the constitution of India, the Right to life has a wide interpretation. In the present scenario, India needs better sanitation and hygiene.
There were a number of Public Interest Litigations filed in the Supreme Court of India for relief and they were solved accordingly. But, there still exists huge problems regarding cleanliness in India.
Especially in rural areas which include small colonies in several states where there are under development and the local self-government fails to give much importance to better living standards of the people.
Fundamental Rights under Article 21
Fundamental rights are the basic rights of each and every human being. He or she should be satisfied with their fundamental rights. No one should practice any breach of the Fundamental rights of the other. Even though Article 21 focuses upon the right to life and personal liberty, it also amounts to other rights connected with the right to life subsequently.
The right to a clean and healthy environment is recognized as a fundamental and basic right under several Declarations universally such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR), the Stockholm Declaration, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), etc. Moreover, when it comes to Indian Constitution, there is Article 21 and also, the Directive Principles of State Policy which have developed importance in maintaining a clean and hygienic environment for better living standards of the people.
Present scenario of the environment in rural areas
India is composed of the majority of rural areas. And so, the local self-government plays a vital role in taking care of the sufficient needs of the public. Rural areas are mostly underdeveloped in India. The government specifically focuses on metro cities and developed and tourist-oriented places to make them better because they are the face of the country.
The maintenance funds are allowed for the beautification of the cities and maintenance of roads, transportation, sanitation, and many more. Here, the rural areas and the people who reside in those areas are left behind.
They are not given any recognition or importance. In Kerala, a lot of colonies and slums are still struggling to find clean water for consumption. Many people still die due to the consumption of unhygienic water.
They raise their needs for a fresh and clean environment and water to their respective governments. But their problems are often left behind. This problem still exists regardless of the developments taking place in the cities of Kerala. This is a huge breach of the Fundamental Rights of the people who live in rural areas. The sad truth is that not even the media cover these topics or issues to showcase their story of struggle.
An important case in India regarding the right to a clean and safe environment and water is M. C. Mehta v. UOI, The SC held that the ‘right to live in a pollution-free environment’ is a part of the right to life under Art. 21 of the constitution.
Every citizen has a fundamental right to have the enjoyment of quality of life living as contemplated in Art.21. The judgment of this case itself is enough to uphold the importance of a clean and hygienic environment.
As per the Indian constitution and several other enactments, it is understandable that the right to a clean environment is a basic human right, and should be protected at any cost. But due to the unfulfilled duties of the local self-governments and the other bodies, a lot of people are left out without basic safety and satisfaction of their basic needs being an Indian citizens.
There are several environmental protection laws and pollution prevention acts which are not applied for the protection of their rights. A lot more application of laws and acts from the government and local ruling bodies are required for the betterment of the lives of the people in rural areas.