Ensuring social justice is a true indicator of initiation of progress in a society

social justice

So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every person a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them!

                                                                                         – Swami Vivekanand

When inclusivity becomes an indispensable component of justice, society inches closer towards the good of social justice. The aforementioned idea of Vivekanand speaks of a collective endeavour to make distributive justice a new norm.

Social Justice is an idea that ensures everyone gets equal opportunities to realise his worth and equal claim over resources. Delivering justice is the mark of initiation of progressiveness.

While ensuring social justice reflects the maturity of the society, it mandates the areas of justice even to the most downtrodden. Social justice is possible only when social exclusion is minimum and everyone reaps the outcome of the development process

Every great revolution from American Revolution to the most contemporary Arab Spring is a latent attempt of ensuring maximum justice to maximum people

The evolution of society from feudal to modern democratic speaks of the process of involving more and more people in the mainstream, who were erstwhile neglected. Giving everyone an equal right to vote is the most fundamental form of it. This constitutes the first step towards socio-political justice.

Authoritarian regimes deprive its nationals of this justice. Rigged electoral results of Turkey and militaristic hegemony in countries like Myanmar and Pakistan, necessarily mean that not every solution of the society enjoys an equal quality of life. The deprived state of Rohingya and Baluchistan people substantiate this point.

The best way of penetrating social justice into the political fabric is through grassroots democracy which is decentralised and people-centric. By strengthening the institutions of Panchayat and urban local bodies, a vast section of voiceless masses are now actively leveraging the electoral space to access justice and acceptance. In favour of the caste-based divisions, which are still surviving in rural India, the rate of local governance is much more crucial. Rising Dalit assertiveness and representation corroborates the success that this institution has achieved so far. However, the findings that students of lower caste still made to eat separately during the mid-day and PDS shops have different timings for different communities show that still a long was remains uncovered

The 2011 census report reveals that only 4 per cent of Dalit households has one member working in government jobs. 98 per cent of the total manual scavengers belong to the lower caste. A study by Sukhdev Therot and Ghanshyam Shah reveals that untouchability, in multiple forms is still practised in 80 per cent of villages

These are just some of the ironical facts that mirror the persistence of social deprivation even after 70 years of Independence. This also signals that reservations and other policy initiatives can’t be the only pillar that can support social justice. This is rightly explained in words of Hellen Keller: “Until the great mass of people shall be filled with a sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, Social Justice can never be attained.”

Poverty is the most substantial manifestation of divergence from Social Justice. The appearance of classes in educational institution impacts the quality. Right to education is an attempt for equal distribution of quality education.

This only partially achieved through enrolment. More important is ensuring equality in the quality along with minimising dropouts.

Social inclusion and the way forward

The cornerstone of a socially just country is when every individual has equal access to health services. A disease like cancer can marginalise the whole family. Likewise, malnourishment is not only a social crime against children but also a blot on the potential of human capital.

Justice is deprived when one feels helpless to access quality health service and treatment for the expensive life-threatening diseases is not only the prerogative of rich. Most of the Scandinavian countries have achieved this goal with state facilitating Universal Health Care.

A country with equal distribution also involves a conducive environment that respects one’s identity, ethnicity, gender. It’s a society where everyone has equal rights to dignity irrespective of caste, language, religion, race and sexual orientation.

Progressive taxation and redistributive budgeting are the widely used economic tools by the state. The underlying idea is to tax more the rich and use it for the welfare of the vulnerable sections.

However, the skewed tax base finds leakages, false identities and fast spreading corruption come in way of achieving the intended purpose. Digitisation, technology, efficient grievance redressal machinery and equipping the masses with awareness and feedback mechanism are the most effective weapons for delivering an administrative aspect of social equality.

Agriculture sector requires urgent intervention for Social Justice. M.S Swaminathan has termed land reforms: an unmet agenda. It failed to completely eliminate the feudalistic system. The gap between small and big landowners and farmers has rather widened. Though the initiatives of MSP, subsidies, and farm-waivers can ensure short-term relief, long-term justice can be done with equal exposure to all farmers – small and big – to technology for efficient agriculture and alternative source of livelihood. Panchayat institutions can play the role of implementation.

The study of science and use of benefits should not be restricted to a centre of an individual. Social Justice remains elusive when only a few have the resources to preserve a career in science.

Any new innovation with potential mass benefit must be made equally accessible. Use of satellite process for services like weather information to farmers, disaster information to the vulnerable communities

India’s expertise in generics for the benefit of many African countries are the illustration of socially just way of using Science.

Degrading environment pushes the already vulnerable section to marginalisation. Street vendors, Rikshaw pullers, casual contract labourers are the ones most affected by Delhi air pollution. None of then can afford a home, let alone an air purifier. Climate change which is the result of industrialised nations will engulf the poor island nations first with the rising sea level. In such circumstances, Social Justice on a global scale can only be done with collective action for protecting the environment. This can happen when only the environment is considered to be belonging to the entire humanity equally

The picture of millions of people fleeing the region of war and terror, stranded at the fenced borders offers the most disheartening dent on humanity. The tolerance towards refugee crisis is the reflection of dying consciousness without any fault of their own these unfortunate sections are completely deprived of all the basic human rights and facilities that so rightfully belong them.

Social justice is the key ingredient for ensuring durable global peace. A mass effort cutting across nationalities would go a long way in making an asset out of the liability.

Ignorance of Social Justice and entrenchment of Social exclusion even provide fertile ground for both fundamentalism and revolutions.

A minority section deprived of equal resources and opportunity provides easily impressionable minds. This is exploited by fundamentalists by false radicalisation. The growth and spread of ISIS is the best illustration of negative fallout from ignoring Social Justice.

The secessionist movement in North East is also a result of the ignorance and wide disparity in accessing developmental benefits.

Social justice is not only a natural right of humanity, it is also an essential prerequisite for stable world order. With rising uncertainties and neutral distrust more and more countries are spending a large chunk of their expenditure on military activities with the concern of Social Justice stands defeated.

In this situation, the role of civil society becomes significant for scrutinising public policies and instigating debates and discussion. With the world becoming more and more connected public pressure can be the game changer for building an inter-nation opinion. This was evident when public pressure forced countries to handle the refugee crisis with a humane touch.

History too had witnessed this when the United States, a Superpower, has to withdraw its troops in response to public opposition against its techniques.

Role of individual leadership is also significant in maintaining the course of social justice – Mahatma Gandhi against untouchability, Nelson Mandela against apartheid and Martin Luther King against racism.

With the evolution of civilization, Social Justice is broadening by becoming more and more inclusive. A society is made, destroyed, and reconstructed by its own members. Thus socially just society is possible when its members have the considerate consciousness for others. It will inculcate a harmonious value system based on what Gandhiji believed: “Service to mankind is service to God”.