Today, being Ambedkar Jayanti, is an opportune time to reflect on the questions of equality and inequality. Two major dimensions of equality are economical and class/caste based. Other forms based on religions or other means do exist. I feel many of our systems (definitely not all) are promoters (explicit/implicit) of inequality. The major proof for this would be growing economic inequality in many of the major economies (India, China and US being good examples). We may not be able to produce such a statistics for class/caste based inequality, whether it is increasing or decreasing. Some of my surface-level observations (not scholarly) are
- Government schemes like Demonetization and GST: I am not preaching on the merits/demerits of these schemes. But many of these schemes, especially demonetization, are shockers. There is not much to ask, who has the ability to absorb the shocks — rich or the poor. Thus, such shockers with all its good will, can only help to increase the inequality unless government takes special care to act as shock absorbers.[I dont support the implementations of both these schemes, but that is not an issue here].
- Selling Strategies: I was seeing 2 honey bottles today, one of 250g (with 50g free) costing Rs.122, and another of 500g (extra 150g free) for Rs. 199. If you do a simple mathematics, you could see a major difference in the cost per gram. Anybody would see this is the way markets/business run and I agree to it. It is true that production cost is much less for a bulk producer. But all these somehow shows that the rich who normally buys the bigger quantities (I think this assumption is justifiable) is able to getting massive profits compared to poor ones. I don’t have any methods to correct it, but such systemic injustices can’t help the economic inequality to be reduced.
- Patriarchal Mindset: Anybody who might have traveled in India might have seen trucks, lorries, auto-rickshaws would have seen it written in vernacular languages — Blessing of the mother — I don’t know who is the mother referred here — own mother or some goddess. Whatever it may be, it shows a culture (or a belief) that mother’s blessings are important. [May be my mother’s blessings are enough for me]. So I can disrespect other girls /women who are the present or future mothers. [I am not saying that motherhood is the criterion for respecting women, but finding the contradiction of Indian mentality which speaks highly of mother’s/ goddess’ blessings, yet disrespect women].
- Caste Mentality: It is wrong to say that caste system is only associated with Hinduism. Even after converting to egalitarian religions, some of the so-called lower castes are treated badly by the so-called higher castes. Even after them getting educated, situation remains the same in many occasions. Thus a transformation in our mentality is the need of the hour, without which any dream of equality is impossible and any dream of removing reservations too. Along with reservations, governments need to systematically work on many other schemes to give equal opportunities (atleast nearly) to all the people.
- Mentality on Reservations/Special-Privileges: I support reservation though I agree economically advantaged of the reserved classes shouldn’t get the benefits. Now reservations are considered by many (even I used to think so) as a special-privilege given to the others as they are weak. Many may not be willing to accept this mindset, but I think this persists. As long as this mindset remains, we wont be able to see them as equals — a human with equal dignity as my own. Reservations or Special privileges to weaker sections are not charities from the system or nation, but reparations for the historical wrongs done to them which prevents them from getting equal opportunities.
Definitely the privileged (not all) doesn’t want to share the privileges with the present no-privileged. They could create stories, symbols and myths to perpetuate their privileges. Thus we require systemic changes, changes in the mindsets of people — both are difficult to achieve, but without which equality remains a dream even in the lifetime of youngsters and children of today.