The constitution of India was adopted on November 26, 1949. Some provision of the constitution came into force on same day but the remaining provisions of the constitution came into force on January 26, 1950. This day is referred to the constitution as the “date of its commencement”, and celebrated as the Republic Day. The Indian Constitution is unique in its contents and spirit. Through borrowed from almost every constitution of the world, the constitution of India has several salient features that distinguish it from the constitutions of other countries.
Bharat Ratna Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Chief Architect of Constitution of India, is the man of millennium for social justice, in the sense that he became the deliverer of or the Messiah of the Dalits, the erstwhile untouchables, Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and women, constituting 95% of Hindu population. That big segment of population had been forced to live at a sub-human level from time immemorial, under caste system, sanctioned by Hindu scriptures. He was the man of millennium for social justice, since he was the first man in history to successfully lead a tirade of securing social justice to the vast sections of Indian humanity, with the help of a law, which practically repealed the concerned portions of Hindu scriptures.
Social justice denotes the equal treatment of all citizens without any social distinction based on caste, colour, race, religion, sex and so on. It means absence of privileges being extended to any particular section of the society, and improvement in the conditions of backward classes (SCs, STs, and OBCs) and women. Social Justice is the foundation stone of Indian Constitution. Indian Constitution makers were well known to the use and minimality of various principles of justice. They wanted to search such form of justice which could fulfill the expectations of whole revolution. Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru put an idea before the Constituent Assembly
“First work of this assembly is to make India independent by a new constitution through which starving people will get complete meal and cloths, and each Indian will get best option that he can progress himself.”
Social justice found useful for everyone in its kind and flexible form. Although social justice is not defined anywhere in the constitution but it is an ideal element of feeling which is a goal of constitution. Feeling of social justice is a form of relative concept which is changeable by the time, circumstances, culture and ambitions of the people. Social inequalities of India expect solution equally. Under Indian Constitution the use of social justice is accepted in wider sense which includes social and economical justice both. According to Chief Justice Gajendragadkar.
“In this sense social justice holds the aims of equal opportunity to every citizen in the matter of social & economical activities and to prevent inequalities”.
The Constitution of India has solemnly promised to all its citizens justices-social, economic and political; liberty of thought expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among the all fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation. The Constitution has attempted to attune the apparently conflicting claims of socio-economic justice and of individual liberty and fundamental rights by putting some relevant provisions.
Article 19 enshrines the fundamental rights of the citizens of this country. The seven sub-clauses of Article 19(1) guarantee the citizens seven different kinds of freedom and recognize them as their fundamental rights. Article 19 considered as a whole furnishes a very satisfactory and rational basis for adjusting the claims of individual rights of freedom and the claims of public good.
Articles 23 and 24 provide for fundamental rights against exploitation. Article 24, in particular, prohibits an employer from employing a child below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or in any other hazardous employment. Article 31 makes a specific provision in regard to the fundamental right to property and deals with the vexed problem of compulsory acquisition of property.
Article 38 requires that the state should make an effort to promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may a social order in which justice social, economic and political shall inform all the institutions of national life. Article 39 clause (a) says that the State shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity, and shall, in particular provide free legal aid, by suitable legislation or schemes, or in any other way, to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
Article 41 recognizes every citizen’s right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness & disablement and in other cases of undeserved want. Article 42 stresses the importance of securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. Article 43 holds before the working population the ideal of the living wage and Article 46 emphasizes the importance of the promotion of educational and economic interests of schedule castes, schedule tribes and other weaker sections.
The social problem presented by the existence of a very large number of citizens who are treated as untouchables has received the special attention of the Constitution as Article 15 (1) prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. The state would be entitled to make special provisions for women and children, and for advancement of any social and educationally backward classes of citizens, or for the SC/STs. A similar exception is provided to the principle of equality of opportunity prescribed by Article 16 (1) in as much as Article 16(4) allows the state to make provision for the resolution of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the state, is not adequately represented in the services under the state. Article 17 proclaims that untouchability has been abolished & forbids its practice in any form & it provides that the enforcement of untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. This is the code of provisions dealing with the problem of achieving the ideal of socio- economic justice in this country which has been prescribed by the Constitution of India.
The social justice scenario is to be investigated in the context of two streams of entitlements:
(a) sustainable livelihood, which means access to adequate means of living, such as shelter, clothing, food, access to developmental means, employment; education, health, and resources;
(b) social and political participation (enabling or empowering means), which is built on the guarantee of fundamental rights, and promotion and empowerment of the right to participation in the government, and access to all available means of justice, and on the basis of which “justice as a political programme” becomes a viable reality.
We require therefore a study based on select illustrations of various issues relating to government policies on topics such as:
(a) the right to food and water;
(b) housing, which includes resettlement and rehabilitation;
(c) access to education,
(d) access to provisions of health and healthcare,
(e) right to work, and
(f) access to information and the right to communication.
In short, one of the important ways in which the inquiry will proceed will be through taking stock of various forms that have occasioned the articulation of ideas of social justice. Governmental justice consists of various welfare schemes, law, legal literacy, administrative forms of arbitration such as tribunals, boards, courts, public interest litigation, new legal education, plus the constitutional idea of protection of weaker sections of the society and introduction of positive discrimination.
Challenges in social justice
After 40 years of independence, 8 Five Year Plans, hundreds of laws leading to a veritable forest of rules offering a variety of special facilities to the underprivileged ranging from scheduled castes and tribes to women, in matters of education, employment, housing, etc. social justice is far from a reality. 53% of over 965 million people are under the poverty line i.e. unable to spend even a dollar a day on bare necessities. A mere16% of households enjoy the ‘luxury’ of electricity, drinking water and toilet facilities. This percentage is 3.9% if only rural households are taken into consideration. 71% of our women are illiterate. Barring a few states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, rural health care is a sham and almost non-existent. Then there is the problem of the millions of the educated unemployed. Though in any society some form of inequality is unavoidable, the persistence of
large-scale economic disparities and the undignified living conditions of millions of Indians is a reality that cannot be overlooked. The satisfaction of a set of basic needs must have the highest priority, for, without food, shelter, clothing, health care and primary education a person does not become a human being. The widespread caste prejudices and the continuing discrimination against the lower castes are a threat to social stability and peace. The social and educational backwardness of a vast section of the population inhibits its participation in the process of social and economic development, not to mention human development. Hence, the reduction of discriminatory social practices is an important part of the movement for social justice. Women suffer from historical, social and economic disadvantages. Even among the other categories of deprived communities, they are the most deprived group. A liberal society must attend to demands of gender justice seriously.
The conception of social justice also encompasses firm commitment to the protection of human rights and civil liberties. Disabilities and problems of other groups like the physically disabled, child labour, tribals and those affected by environmental pollution also form the agenda of social justice. And these are India’s most critical problems. These are at the root of much of the political unrest, social and ethnic conflicts, and the growth of collective violence and the weakness of democratic structures in our country.
The caste institution in our society is very effective which is not the phenomenon in western countries. In such circumstances, can we reap the fruits of the system which we adopted? The main objectives of social justice are compulsory and equal education, casteless society and employment to each. Economic exploitation is also a big factor and all these do not allow the true realization of democracy. When India is passing through social and caste discrimination, economic crisis, unemployment, communalism and lack of basic needs, a party of substance and difference is needed which acknowledges and addresses the problems of social and economic deprivation.
Meaning of ‘Justice’ doesn’t need to be further defined and it is committed to give justice to all those who have been or being denied.
Social policy: Politics is reflection of the society. If casteism, regionalism and communalism are part of society, they will go in to politics also. Those who are born and die in discriminatory environment, how is it possible for them to have different mindset? During elections, this mindset takes precedence over development, science, honesty, integrity etc. Though political parties aim to capture political power but they are equally responsible to fight out social discrimination while making it important agenda. Till ideal situation is attained, it will not be possible to capture political power through agenda like development, education, health etc. Recently French Government banned students from wearing religious symbols in schools and similarly we also have to take hard decisions to do away with vestigial institutions like caste. Due to increasing consciousness among dalits and backwards, they are also striving to have participation in political power and it is leading to a situation where elections are being fought more between the castes than parties. Earlier, dominant castes used to fight elections mainly and now backwards have also started contesting and a day will come erstwhile dominant castes will be out of power owing to their smaller number. For all of us it is essential to remove rotten values and social system.
Economic policy: The distribution of income among individuals or households at the local or national level, based on classifications such as socio-economic status, profession, gender, location, and income percentiles, is the most widely used measure of the degree of equality or inequality existing in a society. For most contemporary societies, income distribution remains the most legitimate indicator of the overall levels of equality and inequality. Gap between rich and poor is wider in our country. Besides historical reason, there are many reasons which are producing poverty. Governments are morally bound to provide education, health, employment and other basic needs. Due to globalization and privatization, it is now being debated that the Governments are not suppose to do business and provide employment but are for maintenance of law and order and foreign policy etc.
Dalits: Dalits have been exploited for millennia. No society or country can make the requisite progress while depriving such large number of people of dignity and respect. A country is an extended version of a family, if a family member is half fed or sick, peace and happiness will not
come to it and similarly deprivation of dalits has cost and is costing India dear. Dr. Ambedkar was for nationalization of land but Dalits have forgotten this economic agenda. Dalits have made a little progress in government jobs and politics due to reservation but in other fields like industry, market, profession, media, hi-tech, art & culture, stock exchange, they are yet to begin. Dr. Ambedkar’s plank to establish casteless society through Buddhism was implemented in 2001 when lacks of dalits embraced buddhism.
Tribals: Tribals have escaped from caste discrimination but are the worst victims of economic poverty. They have been traditionally fed on the roots and shoots and other available natural resources but this also has declined. With increasing pace of industrialization and urbanization there is no alternative left except to integrate them into the main stream of the nation. Though they had been provided reservation but most backward tribal have been hardly benefited.
Minorities: Being in minority should not be a curse in democracy, yet in a country like ours, majority pocket the main benefits. Christians have introduced and cultivated science, engineering and modern education but are becoming subject to persecution on day to day basis in the name of conversion. Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists have not been given status of being separate religious groups, this shows the plight of minorities. Muslims and Dalit Christians are worst sufferers and hence priority should be given to ensure health, education and jobs to them. Muslims are very small in Government jobs and police and they should be ensured participation according to their population in such areas. During communal riots, they do not face the wrath of majority only but also of police and paramilitary forces; therefore it is must to ensure reservation in police and paramilitary forces.
Backward Castes: Backward castes population is more than any other group but they are a most divided lot. The recommendations of Mandal Commission were implemented because of Dalit struggle but divided and unaware backwards could not even use the benefits. Thus the saga of most backwards castes is really deplorable. A fresh look is needed to ensure the benefits to them of reservation and other safeguards.
Women: Women are the worst sufferers in this social economicsetup. Even able women are not in a position to get the returns they deserve. Since childhood, they are taught that they belong to their in-laws’ house and their salvation lies in surrendering to their husbands. This generates that mindset, consciously or subconsciously, that women are meant for enjoyment and progeny. This must be attacked otherwise even women will not come forward to ask for their rights. Dowry, rape and torture are the by product of this mentality. In present times, Muslim women are the worst sufferers due to increasing fundamental tendency. Where progress has become possible, participation of women in various fields was and is higher. Not only for the sake of humanity but also for overall growth of the nation, women will have to be integrated into social, educational and political system. Through various cultural fora like cinema etc. women are projected as beautiful objects and epitomes of purity but not certainly meant to compete with men. This complex problem is not going to be tackled merely by governmental efforts; therefore political parties also share the great social responsibilities.
Farmers: Farmers and peasants do not get the return of what they toil far. The prices of their produce like wheat, paddy, vegetables etc. have not increased to the extent of commodities like soap, cosmetics, steel and other articles manufactured in industries. In places like Mumbai and Delhi, small shops can have turn over of millions and billions but farmer owning hundred acres of land can not afford to lead the life a small businessman and government servant can do. World Bank and developed countries are exerting continuous pressure on our Governments that they should reduce the subsidies on fertilizers, pesticides and seeds etc. whereas they pamper their farmers like anything, i.e., a farmer is given Rs. 400 per day to maintain a cow in England. Switch on the television or open pages of news papers, you will find news about stock exchange but what about farmers and crops. Equity and shares do not have more than 10% value of country’s assets. Good rain has helped farmers to grow more crops. When there is drought, sensex at stock exchange falls. Justice has not come to the farmers and to secure it, agricultural products must get their due price and subsidies, if required, be increased. Computerization, mobile revolution, hi-tech have
benefited a few living in urban cities and this can not be yardstick to measure the progress of farmers and labourers. We should modernize rural India as well so that the children of rural areas also avail the same opportunities. Till this is done, we will not concede the so called achievements in computerization and hi-tech etc.
Labourers: Whatever production was done by thousands of labourers in the past, now it is being done by few labourers so that the profits of businessman go up. We should not oppose hi-tech and mechanization but is in favour of those industries and services who absorb more people. These days businessmen are employing labourers on contract basis and this has unleashed more exploitation. Recently, Supreme Court pronounced a judgment which curtails the freedom of agitation and struggle of employees and labourers. The higher judiciary is favouring disinvestment and privatization which is precipitating further exploitation of workers. We feel that exploitation by industrialists and businessman should be curbed.
Landless People: About 65% population living in rural India is landless and Dalits’ ratio is even higher. In developed countries like Japan and Europe about 40 % rural population does not depend on agriculture but derive their subsistence from agro based industries, cottage industries and soil conservation activities etc. We have ample opportunities to go for mass scale agro based industries which will not only provide employment but also stop migration to urban areas.
Where Does The Solution Lie?
The solution to social injustice lies within us only. We should be aware of the expressions the poor, the backwards, social justice which are being used to undermine standards, to flout norms and to put institutions to work. Despite the well intentioned commitment of ensuring social justice through equalization or protective discrimination policy, the governmental efforts have caused some tension in the society. In the name of social justice even such activities are performed which have nothing to do with social justice. The need of hour is to ensure the proper and balanced implementation of policies so as to make social justice an effective vehicle of social progress. While Liberalism puts freedom first it is conscious of the fact that such freedom is hollow unless it is accompanied by a sense of security and equality. A liberal social policy should aim at providing the most disadvantaged with access to opportunities and, at the same time create a social net that strengthens their ability to cope with crises. Successive governments have attempted to meet the basic needs of people by spending large sums of money on various subsidies, a variety of employment generation and poverty alleviation schemes. While these schemes have created a huge distributive bureaucracy only a small percentage of the sums sanctioned actually reach the intended recipient groups. They have bred corruption on a massive scale. A phenomenal amount of resources are wasted, destabilising public finances, harming economic development and burdening future generations. Alongside of measures to liberalise the economy which would create new employment opportunities, there is need to encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment particularly in the light of fast developing technology. This would spur an upward movement of people and each entrepreneur can provide work for one or more persons. Jobs and self employment opportunities have to be encouraged in sectors like agriculture, plantations, and in a variety of infrastructural activities, etc. Employing techniques that involve a judicial mix of machines and manual labour, the country’s enormous economic potential can be exploited to the benefit of the less fortunate sections of the population. Without administrative and political decentralisation the goals of social justice may not be accomplished. Letting people decide what their development needs are will not only generate social and political awareness among them but also instill a sense of self-respect and build strong leadership at the local and community levels.