CONSTITUTIONALISM IN SOUTH ASIA: DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS INTERFACE

South Asia is a home of 22 percent of the world population. Ironically, unfathomable despite richness in natural resources, cultures, traditions or civilizations of deeply rooted humanity, and scenic beauty, arts and prospect of great transformation of lives, South Asia is also a home of 43 percent poor people of the world. Over last some decades, as described by reports from national governments and world organizations like Asian Development Bank and World Banks, South Asia is said to have well established on a high economic growth path, with strong and improving macroeconomic fundamentals. In statistics, the over description may be true. The life of people in actuality is, however, different; South Asia remains the most impoverished region in the world in terms of income as well as human development indicators, such as health and education". Even today, the region inhabits 47 percent of the world's illiterate population aged 15 years and above (up to 59 years). Over 71 percent of the South Asians live in rural areas with abundance of young population. The aging population is increasing rapidly, due to constant rise on the average life expectancy, but without social changes such as improved living conditions, better nutrition, gains in wealth and access to health services. Obviously, the problem of unhealthy aging is well manifested. Demographic, Economic, and Health Profiles of South Asia has experienced average annual 6 percent GDP growth in the last 20 years, despite prolonged conflicts and political instability. Though the economic growth rate is supposedly inclining, the region is known to have the largest absolute number of poor in the world'. An estimated 437 million people live below 1.25 US dollar a day. It is disheartening to say that 237 million people in South Asia live at risk of dying before the age of 40 years. Furthermore, it is a fact that 867 million people in the region do not have access to basic sanitation and more than 300 million people are living undernourished. The significance of the recent economic growth for vast poor rural people is thus widely suspected looking from the perspective of massive inhuman conditions crippling the huge of population of human being in the region.

Statistically, though the good performance in macro-economic paradigm has pushed down the poverty rates in all countries of the region; the said growth has, however, failed to manifest equal inclusion of all, or, to say categorically, to reduce the number of poor. The natural calamities, the conflicts, the looming political instability and the myriads of socio-economic problems along with the poor yielding governance system are in the region are stealing the prospect of transformation of the live of the vast poor population. The weak governance is particularly a serious impediment to the equitable distribution of of resources and opportunities, the delivery of public or security services, such as education and health care system, and to the overall enhancement of the standard of the life of people.

Moreover, looking beyond consumption and poverty, the region has been able to record encouraging success in some major areas of human security and social transformation: for instance, infant mortality rates have dropped from about 120 in 1980 to 58 in 2008. Challenges, however, remain in key areas such as child malnutrition, maternal mortality, and gender balance in education and health outcomes. Total expenditure levels on health as a share of GDP or per capita remain the lowest among lower- and middle-income regions. Close to three-fourths of this spending is from private sources (mostly out of pocket) suggesting financial vulnerability among the poor. Broadly speaking, South Asia is far backward in all spheres of development, with the following traits as general characters of the society: (1) the distribution of resource stands on an acute imbalance looking from the perspectives of gender parity, caste inclusion, geographical areas of inhabitation, and age groups; (2) the disparity in resource and opportunity distribution between the rural and urban sector is staggeringly wider; (3) the pattern of expenditure of the revenue is manifestly erroneous as 'the governmental expenditure exceeds' 10 percent of the GDP whereas the health care sector receives only is less than 2.5 percent; (4) the access to opportunity to development is less inclusive as the vast majority of the population lives on only with meager (below 5 percent) of GDP; (5) the social injustice, such the problem of untouchability, sex discrimination, and practice of degrading customary rituals and relics mostly against children women and downtrodden people, is phenomenal ; and (6) the corruption in all sectors of life is deeply rooted. These factors largely account for defilement of the values and institution of democracy in South Asia. Undoubtedly, the study of constitutionalism in south Asia cannot close eyes to such issues. The terms democracy and human rights are not merely rhetoric' of abstract debate. The concepts of democracy and human rights are inseparably linked up with the 'ground realities' of the lives of majority, thus it is near impossible to 'understand' constitutionalism in absence of a discourse on democracy and human rights that are isolated from the 'prevailing ground realities' of human conditions of life. Formalist interpretation of the 'provisions of constitution' is not what the concept of 'constitutionalism' is meant in the context of South Asia. The concept of 'constitutionalism' is relevant both the 'making of contextual constitutional frameworks and constructions thereof in light of the need of improving the condition of life of vast majority of unprivileged sections of population through operation of principles such as equitable distribution of resources, unrestricted access to justice, inclusive participation in governance, gender parity in access to resources and opportunities, priorities in development opportunities to vulnerable sections of population and rule of law'.

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