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NHRC to come up with code of ethics for corporates

New Delhi: Controversies over land acquisition and labour unrest involving big businesses have prompted the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to come up with a "code of ethics" for corporates.

A draft report in this respect has been submitted to the NHRC by New Delhi-based Institute of Corporate Sustainability Management (ICSM) Trust and has been perused by the Commission.

NHRC had commissioned a study – `Developing Code of Ethics for Indian Industries` – with the objective of bringing into effect a similar a code of ethics for corporates by drawing from international norms.

For the study, data was collected from ten sectors – steel, power, mines, cement, paper, FMCG, sugar, banking and MFI, textile and pharma. "We had a sitting on the draft report. It talks about what corporate bodies have to do in ensuring human rights, their obligations of corporates to maintain human rights and their attitude towards employees besides other issues," NHRC Chairperson Justice K G Balakrishnan told PTI.

He said NHRC was looking at a scenario where the state will watch the performance of the corporate bodies and ensure that human rights values are observed by these bodies. "There should be accessibility for common man to redress their grievances. So the state should provide this accessibility. So if there is a human rights violation, a single citizen may not be in a position to fight against the corporates. So should give the facility and accessibility by court or other fora," he said.

Balakrishnan noted that the issues with corporates was not an India-specific problem.
"This was discussed during the Geneva Convention also. A member from Germany alleged that the land acquisition is creating problems there also. Huge land acquired and not enough compensation is paid. So then NHRC suggested that Haryana model could be adopted," Balakrishnan said.

In the annuity-cum-compensation model followed in Haryana, the farmer gets not only the market price for his land, but also a fixed amount at pre-determined intervals for a specific number of years.

He also said NHRC has requested major universities to design their own courses on human rights. "We have requested some of the universities to do research projects on important themes. We will enter into an MoU with them. Earlier, we thought of having Chairs in Universities. But we decided against it later. We think that it is more effective to have university do research on various themes. It will act as a foundation for some of our work, improve on some aspects of our work," he said.

On environmental issues, he said NHRC has suggested to the International Coordination Committee (of national human rights bodies) to study the international protocols on environment and codify it for the national bodies. "There are human rights issues involved with environment. There are a number of protocols. So a codified document will help us," Balakrishnan said.

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