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Sustaining delivery of social justice
Social justice is at the core of our collective resolve and action to achieve wholesome growth by reaching the last mile and leaving no one behind!...
Social justice is at the core of our collective resolve and action to achieve wholesome growth by reaching the last mile and leaving no one behind! The 2023 World Day of Social Justice (February 20) is suitably themed on 'Overcoming Barriers and Unleashing Opportunities for Social Justice' which is in sync with the global efforts to build an inclusive socio-economic and political order through fostering dialogue with all stakeholders, ensuring empowerment of all through inclusion. Though an integral part of human development and discourse since time immemorial, the need for social justice has been greatly felt in view of the economic and social crises of recent years!
There is near unanimity among experts that without taking care of the downtrodden with a multilateral set of action and interventions to provide them with an inclusive ambience, sustainable development is not possible. The challenge is not only to deliver and bring solutions to people's daily problems but to empower them holistically. For this, we need to address a multitude of problems such as poverty, gender inequality, unemployment, human rights abuse, social protection to weaker sections of society and adopting a fulsome inclusive approach without any discrimination in respect of values, freedom, and dignity of individuals, their security, economic and social development.
As we talk of social justice, I am tempted to refer to some of prominent observations made by the renowned Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda who strongly felt that the real cause of India's backwardness was the neglect and exploitation of the masses who produced the wealth of the land and the subjugation of women. "So long as the millions live in hunger and ignorance, I hold every man a traitor who, having been educated at their expense, pays not the least heed to them." He even said that "educate women first and leave them to themselves, then they'll tell you what reforms are necessary for them."
Our Puranas and philosophies teach us many valuable things about human relations and justice. They teach us that there is a divinity in every human being. However, in practice we give better treatment to our pets than those who belong to lower strata of society. We don't feel like giving equal treatment to all fellow citizens. We still hear of painful incidents of untouchability where people are not allowed to enter temples even though the governments have made many strict laws to prevent such happenings.
Many social reformers like Shri Adi Shankaracharya, Sri Ramanujacharya, Shri Basaveshwar, Shri Aurobindo Ghosh, Rajaram Mohan Roy, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati, Mahatma Gandhi and Shri Veeresalingam Pantulu dedicated their lives for the uplift of the downtrodden. They succeeded to a great extent but not fully. Social justice is linked to social equality and poverty eradication. In our country, SCs, STs and OBCs have faced a lot of inequalities in the past decades. It is a fact that they do not get proper education, employment and health facilities. There is no dearth of merit among them. The first and foremost example is the life of Dr BR Ambedkar.
Dr Ambedkar hailed from a very humble background. He was subjected to many insults, inequalities and untouchability in schools and colleges but he studied with great persistence and received three doctorates from three of the best universities in the world. The Constitution he wrote has proved a milestone in our endeavours for empowerment through inclusion. Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and his wife Savitribai Phule, who worked for the prevention of untouchability, should be an example for all of us. They dedicated their lives for the eradication of the caste system and uplift of women.
Social justice means providing equal opportunities to every person for his personal development without discrimination of race, caste, religion, gender. No person should be deprived of social conditions necessary for his development because of such differences. The concept of social justice is based on the pursuit of social equality. Our Constitution has given us the concept that social justice can be realized only in a society where man is not exploited by man. Articles 14, 15, 16 and 17 of our Constitution also reflect the idea of social justice so well enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution. The people of the nation should understand the fact that some anarchic forces are using these social contradictions for their own vested interests.
I am glad to share that social justice is one of the cornerstones of the Government of India under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, a significant instrument for ensuring coherence across a range of social groups. Seven priorities of the Union Budget – Saptarishi – consist of inclusive development, reaching the last mile, infrastructure and investment, unleashing the potential, green growth, youth power and financial sector.
The Central government will recruit 38,800 teachers and support staff for the 740 Eklavya Model Residential Schools, serving 3.5 lakh tribal students over the next three years. The development of more than 14,500 schools across the country as PM SHRI Schools will nurture holistic and well-rounded individuals equipped with key 21st century skills. By providing quality education to rural children through model schools will enhance their chances of growing equally with the rest of the society. The Central government is taking steps to modernize model schools across the country to match the standards of Central Vidyalayas.
Similarly, 157 new nursing colleges to be established in co-location with the existing 157 medical colleges established since 2014. Outlay for the PM Awas Yojana is being enhanced by 66 per cent to over Rs 79,000 crore. A one-time new small savings scheme - Mahila Samman Savings Certificate - has been announced in the Union Budget 2023-24, which will offer deposit facility up to Rs 2 lakh in the name of women or girls for tenure of two years up to March 2025 at fixed interest rate of 7.5 per cent.
As India marches ahead to lead the world in ensuring cultural, social and economic resilience for shared prosperity, we need to work harder to build a better social order. Efforts should also be made to ensure due representation of SCs, STs, OBCs and other weaker sections of society in jobs in different fields in the private sector such as health, education and industries. Industrial houses should voluntarily come forward and give preference to them in their employment opportunities.
Social justice is possible only when there is equality in every respect. The idea of the last mile development encompasses the well-being of all sections of society – culturally, socially, educationally and politically. It is true that all five fingers cannot be equal but we have to ensure that they are equally powerful and respected by all. No social group can be discriminated against on the basis of their caste, religion and affluence. Efforts should be initiated to make the poor richer by exposing them to the best of facilities and opportunities.