Over time, the share of agriculture in national product fell substantially, while that of manufacturing increased by leaps and bounds. Later, in the early 20th century, Russia was to transform itself through industrialisation-led spectacular economic growth.
Although it had a completely different economic and political system, it too followed the use of technology to increase industrial productivity and transform its economy through rapid economic growth.
These sorts of experiences in different countries led to the belief that economic growth and increase in national income are the key to success in development and progress. It was later realised that people will use the benefits of growth and development. Human beings are the agents of progress, as well as its beneficiaries.
They are also ultimately responsible for economic production and growth. We would be making a mistake if we focus only on production and growth as the ends. Expansion in production, rise in incomes and economic growth are the means, the instruments of development. Rise in incomes is only an intermediate goal.
Economic prosperity is only one way to enrich people’s lives. Also, there are areas of human lives where economic growth may be ineffective in bringing improvement, like environmental degradation and ill health.
Amartya Sen has put forward an influential approach to development which he calls the ‘capability approach.’ The capability approach to development sees human lives as a collection of ‘doings’ and ‘becomings’ which, are together called ‘functioning’. Functioning denotes the achievement of a person, a person’s state, of what she is able to do.
Capability captures the idea of the collection of various combinations of functioning that a person is able to achieve. The idea reflects a person’s freedom to choose between different ways of conducting her life and the various opportunities she gets, the various freedoms she has, and to the extent that she is able to realise her potential.
In the course of evolution of the development theories, some thinkers came to argue that human resources were as important in the development process of a nation as material or natural resources. Related to this conception was the idea that a nation can and must invest in human resources in the hope of future returns on investment in much the same way as investment in any physical or financial asset. Initially education was considered the quintessential human capital.
Later, as research in development proceeded, health also acquired tremendous importance as human capital. Education, and nutritional and health status are important indicators of human development and welfare in their own right.
We have seen that people have been considered to be important in the study of development in several ways. First, people are considered to be resources or even the seat of human capital. Secondly it is the state of being, the standard of living or even the quality of life that is the true measure of development.
Thus, people are at the centre of any analysis of development. One aspect of people’s lives is the liberty they enjoy and the rights they have to various dimensions of living.
The study of rights has traditionally linked it to the concept of individual liberty. When it is said that someone has rights, it implies that she has a certain zone of liberty and privacy that no one has the authority to transgress or snatch away. At the societal level, this naturally gets modified into the concept of civil liberties.
This implies that the state comes under scrutiny and is under observation as to whether it is providing rights to its citizens and, moreover, not violating their rights. Of course, one member of the society could infringe on the right of another, but then it is a matter of general law.
Thus, social scientists have looked at human rights in terms of their being guaranteed, and their possible violation by the state. Human rights are not merely matters of ethics. They primarily involve the obligation of the state. The success of human rights depends upon meeting of these obligations by the duty-holders namely the state.
Human rights largely deal with oppression by the state. Human rights endow individuals with a legitimate claim against the state to enjoy an existential status with proper dignity. The primary thrust of human rights is on the empowerment of society, particularly the most vulnerable groups in society, to legitimate claims to the institution of the state for a life with dignity and freedom and resources. Human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated.