"Is Equality A Practical Aspect?
- A Snap of True India"


By

Dr. H.C. Gurnani
M.A. (Economics), D.Phil.
Reader
Department of Economics
N.M.S.N Dass (P.G.) College
Budaun

Deepa Gupta
Senior Lecturer
Department of Management Studies
IILM– Academy of Higher Learning
Plot No. 17-18, Knowledge Park–II, Greater Noida
E-mail:
deepa_mukul@yahoo.co.in / deepamukul@gmail.com

Mukul Gupta
Senior Lecturer
Department of Management Studies
IILM– Academy of Higher Learning
Plot No. 17-18, Knowledge Park–II, Greater Noida
E-mail:
deepa_mukul@hotmail.com
 


Equality refers to a situation of oneness or uniformity. Equality has various dimensions such as social equality, economic equality, political equality etc. Equality helps in the sustainable development of society.

The popular meaning of the term equality is that all men are equal and all should be entitled to equal treatment. The concept of equality was initially recognized in 1789 by the national assembly of France which made a declaration stating "Men are born and always continue to be free and equal in respect of their rights."

American declaration of independence stated that "All men were created equal."

Indian constitution deals with the various dimensions of equality. One of the objectives of Indian constitution is to promote equality of status and opportunity which is specifically mentioned in the Indian preamble. The various provisions in the constitution clearly indicate that Indian constitution emphasizes various dimensions of equality.

In India, the concept of equality is mainly referred to in the context of the disparities created by the caste system.  Of course, social inequality is manifested in a number of ways.  The rich and the poor, landowners and landless labourers, capitalists and workers, educated and uneducated, employed and unemployed, men and women, modern and backward.  In addition, there always are 'internal' inequalities among the rich, as also among the workers at various strata and the farmers at various levels.  For example, in terms of the Supreme Court's judgment, there is a 'creamy layer' among the OBC's also.  Further, not all BC castes are equal nor are all OBC's on the same level or in the same class.

The concept of 'equality' is not as simple as it appears. The meaning which we attribute to it belongs to very recent times. There is no society anywhere in the world where all individuals are wholly 'equal'.  Say, for example, a nation succeeds in bringing about one hundred percent pure equality in its society; even then the equal people of that nation are going to be at unequal level compared to people in other nations.  Thus, it is going to be a very long struggle to bring all the five and a half hundred crore people in the world on the same level.  Assuming that this struggle will take another one hundred years, will approximately two thousand crore people be 'equal' then, after one hundred years?

"Equality' is an ideal accepted by all the enlightened and progressive societies and individuals; it is not a social reality.

The political development of this concept has been going on for the past two hundred and fifty years.  The two epoch-making events, the American War of Independence (1776) and the French revolution (1789) transferred the concept of 'equality' from religious and metaphysical level, right into politics.  Otherwise, all children of God were equal before Him and the question of inequality does not arise in metaphysics.  Thus, even though all religions endowed everybody with equal status, in reality there existed in the society an element of inequality, hierarchy and multiple layers.

After the Industrial Revolution, the inequality in Europe acquired giant proportions and as a reaction to it, the philosophy of political-social-cultural equality started getting a modern shape.  Mahatma Phule, who was influenced by the American Civil War and the thoughts and struggles of Abraham Lincoln, dedicated his book Gulam-giri (Slavery) to 'Liberator of slaves' (Lincoln).  It was a period of unlimited exploitation by capitalism in Europe. The socialistic manifestation of equality came about through the fights for democratic rights and workers' movements of the time.  The workers' revolution in Russia (1917) and the Chinese revolution (1949) gave a powerful communist angle to equality.

The concept of 'equality' which had hitherto grown on the experiences of Europe and America developed in India on the canvas of the caste-ridden social reality that existed here.  Those thinkers, who wanted to introduce social change without overstepping the broad Hindu philosophy, began strongly criticizing the caste system. They had a kind of 'Hindu Protestant' movement in their minds.  It was a native attempt (no doubt feeble) to challenge religious power centres as done by the European Protestants against the Catholic religious power.  The equality as envisaged by Gandhi ji was based on compassion and was closer to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  The essence of his equality was there in the Indian tradition of saints; but his fight was clearly political and that is why his idea of equality spread far and wide.

Not only Babasaheb Ambedkar, but a number of others too disagreed with the Gandhian interpretation of the concept of 'equality'. Because of these differences, untouchables became Harijans and later Harijans became Dalits. 

The concept of equality accepted by our Constitution is mainly western - i.e., it is based on what happened there.  This transplant, intended to eradicate the stringency of the caste system, its inequality, injustice does not appear to have taken root yet. As a result, everyone has his own version of 'removal of inequality' to suit his own convenience.

When the Marxist interpretation of a dialectic tension between 'capitalist' class and the 'working' class in Europe became accepted widely, a theory was put forward that 'true equality' will be established when the working class comes to power and exterminates the capitalist class.

The issue of equality in a society with a class-based hierarchy and that in a society with multiplicity/inequality among various castes are qualitatively different from each other. Manu gave only the essentials of the four Varnas.  Manusmriti does not envisage the hierarchical arrangement of Chitpawans, Deshasthas (Yajurved or Rigved), Karhades in the Brahmins among the Savarnas. (Chitpawans cannot have existed at all in the time of Manu.) Similarly there is no question of there being the division of the Five-kuli, Ninety-six-Kuli Marathas in Manu's time.  Every caste has created such hierarchy on its own.  Even though the inequality in it is called as 'casteist', it has no place in the caste system. But everybody including the Marathas and the Brahmins has experienced how sharp such divisions within a caste can be. The respective sections of the society have seen a few years ago the explosive nature of a marriage between a Chitpawan and a Deshastha or between a Five-kuli and a Ninety-six-kuli Maratha or between a Mahar families with and without Watan. Very recently the caste Panchayat in a village in Bihar sentenced a Jat boy and his Jatav mate to death and hanged them in front of all because he fell in love with her.  Manusmriti does not contain the rules governing such inequalities. Therefore hanging Manu for our recent crimes is not going to end the caste system, leave alone getting rid of disparities to establish equality.  Further, if the 'upper' level of the caste is buttressed by higher class also, the result is a special blend of snobbery.

This kind of differentiation has reached such alarming proportions in our country that a Brahmin from one state does not trust another Brahmin from a different state.  The Nambudris of Kerala look down upon any other Brahmin.  Same is the case with the backward castes.  Some established Dalits consider the followers of Kanshi Ram as 'inferior'. A Jat boy from Punjab will not marry a Jat girl from Uttar Pradesh and Patels from Kutch are not going to call the Patels from Ahmedabad as their own.

All this of course was not there in Manusmriti. Thus, the jumble of castes in our country has been getting knottier during the past two arid half to three thousand years since Manu gave his dictates.

The policy of reservation was put forward with a view to eliminating the caste-based inequalities in our society. But this criterion can apply only to economic disparities. It has not been able to remove cultural inequalities.

The teachings of all religions, the constitutions all States and the policies of almost ail political parties embrace the concept of equality'; in spite of which this inequality has not been removed.  This should not construe to mean that the hatred, the disparity are curses of the Human society.  It only means that the struggle for 'equality' is indeed very long and is not as easy as it appears to be.  If the 'progressive Brahmins', the 'Dalit rebels' and the 'communist revolutionaries' come to realise this much, the tendency to make political capital of the inequalities among castes will be checked.

So, as per the true Indian snap, absolute equality is an impossible deal. Human beings differ in their basic abilities, level of education, designation, strength, capabilities, skills, attitudes etc. When such differences exist, it is the myth to have absolute equality. However it should be ensured that the element of inequality must be reasonable and well justified we can say that the aim of equality is to prevent arbitrary discrimination. The following are some of the grounds of justified differences:

¥ Restriction on voting rights on the basis of age. (Persons below 18 years are denied voting rights)
¥ Special provisions for women.
¥ Special exemptions to certain trade.
¥ Reservation of seats in public employment and educational institutions for SC's and ST's.
¥ Special allowances to the executives.
¥ Special provisions to develop backward areas etc.

From the above it can be inferred that absolute equality is a myth in true India.  The real objective of equality is to prevent unjustified discrimination in India.

The snap of true India still reveals many instances of unjustified discriminations such as:

¥ Denying education opportunities to women.
¥ Restrictions on social movements of women.
¥ Denying entry to public places and temples on ground of caste.
¥ Denying promotions on ground of gender.
¥ Difference due to prevailing terms like VIP's, V VIP's etc.
¥ The constitution itself which say that all men are equal along with its quotes that President is the First person of the nation.

Even in the business organizations absolute equality can't be practiced. In fact hierarchy is the fundamental principle of any organization. An organization can't survive unless there is a clear cut difference between people who issue directions and people who shall follow them. The aim of equality in organizations is to treat all jobs with same respect.

Equality should aim at individual dignity and no individual / job should be considered as inferior or discriminated on ground of individual dignity. In true India this fact is still lacking behind and hence the search for absolute equality has to still continue…
 


Dr. H.C. Gurnani
M.A. (Economics), D.Phil.
Reader
Department of Economics
N.M.S.N Dass (P.G.) College
Budaun

Deepa Gupta
Senior Lecturer
Department of Management Studies
IILM– Academy of Higher Learning
Plot No. 17-18, Knowledge Park–II, Greater Noida
E-mail:
deepa_mukul@yahoo.co.in / deepamukul@gmail.com

Mukul Gupta
Senior Lecturer
Department of Management Studies
IILM– Academy of Higher Learning
Plot No. 17-18, Knowledge Park–II, Greater Noida
E-mail:
deepa_mukul@hotmail.com
 

Source: E-mail February 7, 2006

   

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