(Sample Material) Study Kit on Current Affairs for UPSC Mains Exam: Polity, Governance and Social Justice: Social Justice

(Sample Material) Study Kit on Current Affairs for UPSC Mains Examination

Polity, Governance and Social Justice: Social Justice

Social Justice in the Indian Context

The best brains of the world in the field of sociology, law and jurisprudence have tried to define social justice in their own way. The result is that the term has come to assume varied interpretations. To Plato, justice in society was to be attained by ‘a division of labour according to natural aptitudes’. He held that three qualities are found in individuals in society viz, wisdom, courage and temperance; and every individual in society should perform his duties according to his innate quality. Thus Platonic justice consists in ‘the will to concentrate on one’s own sphere of duty, and not to- meddle with the sphere of others; and its habitation, therefore, is in the heart of every citizen who does his duty in his appointed place’, if the ‘producers’ of the community attempt to intervene in the affairs of the ‘ruling classes’ (whom Plato calls the Auxiliaries and Guardians of public service), then nothing but confusion can result which will be an example of injustice in society (Republic). But how was an individual to find his station or position in society? The individual was left guessing and usually the accident of his birth decided his place in society. This problem of determinism makes Plato’s definition of Justice rather undependable in practice and hence unsatisfactory.

The ancient Hindus also tried to solve the problem of social justice by-dividing the society into four varnas: Brahrnana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudras based on division of duties and occupations, and like Plato, Manu said, in general, ‘it’ is better to discharge one’s own dharma incompletely or imperfectly (Vigunah) than to perform completely that of another (na parakyanh Sivanushthitah)’. Later on varna came to be determined by birth and heredity, and the result was the caste system. The Platonic concept of justice and Hindu caste system might have created social justice in society where population was thin and life was simple. It is unsuited to the present day problems. The concept of justice is dynamic, as society itself is dynamic. What our forefathers considered just, we might consider unjust. For offences for which people were hanged in the past, we impose a lenient fine today. Aristotle justified slavery; Americans fought a war to do away with it Social justice is relative, its standards are highly variable with time and place but ‘life without some principle of Justice has never been lived and is not livable’.

In modern times, man as the measure of all things has come to occupy the most important position in any concept of social justice in, modem democracies. In democracy, the individual is treated as an end in himself, and any concept of social justice must be based on this basic principle. Social Justice means that every individual is given full opportunities to develop his capacities and this opportunity is given to maximum number of persons in society. The creation of social justice means the creation of an environment in which every individual has got unreserved and unhindered opportunity for physical and intellectual development. In removing disabilities arising from caste, sex, race, colour, creed, religion or nationality, and providing opportunities in a positive way with a view to developing individual faculties lies the essence of social justice.

Social Justice in India

To begin with, let us turn to the Preamble of the Indian constitution which stands for ‘Justice, social, economic and political ‘. The constitution framers wanted social justice in a comprehensive sense. Let us analyse the implications of economic, political and social justice in the context of India.

Economic Aspects

In the constitution the basic objectives of justice were set forth as “The Directive Principles of State Policy’ which stated that ‘The state shall strive to. prom ate the welfare at 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.

Further that -

‘The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing-

(a) That the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood
(b) That the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to. serve the common good;
(c) That the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment.

Thus the concept of social justice on the economic side demands a guarantee of: (i) work to every able bodied citizen; (ii) satisfaction of basic needs of every, individual and (iii) provision of equal opportunity to every citizen to develop his potential. The disparities in income should not be such as to create an unbridgeable gulf between the rich and the poor leading to conflicts and unrest. To achieve economic Justice, the government in India has adopted a socialist pattern of society as its goal, and it is practicing planned development at the economy of the country. The basic premise in India’s Five Year Plans is that, through democracy and widespread public participation, development along socialist lines will secure rapid economic growth and expansion of employment, reduction of disparities ill income and wealth, prevention of concentration of economic power, and creation of the values and attitudes of a free and equal society. However, in spite of years of planning, even the minimum economic requirements of social justice have not been achieved in India. Millions of able bodied citizens are unemployed, millions are living in miserable conditions, suffering hunger and semi-starvation; the gulf between the rich and the poor is widening. Prices are rising higher and higher, and a large percentage of the population finds it difficult to make ends meet.

Political Aspect

In the field of politics, justice means: equality before law, enjoyment of civil liberties and equality of opportunity. One may emphasize here the following in particular:

(1) The state should not distinguish between citizen and citizen on the basis of sex, creed, colour, caste, or religion.
(2) The state should not give any preferential treatment on the basis of religion.
(3) Rule of law with independent and impartial judiciary as a protector of fundamental rights should be guaranteed.
(4) Basic freedoms like freedom of speech, expression, criticism, freedom to hold meetings and organize parties, freedom of the press etc.; should be guaranteed.

Freedom is the corner stone of any concept of justice. Closed societies, which deny freedom to individuals, also deny social justice, The concept of social justice prevails in real democracies or open societies because they treat man as an end and provide him freedom to develop his personality. No doubt we have all the ingredients of social justice in its political aspect, but many find the wide powers of the executive, e.g. Emergency Proclamation a threat to freedom. Further, the Preventive Detention Act is the greatest danger to individual liberty in India.

Social Aspects

Every individual in society should feel that he/she is an important and useful member, that he/she has full opportunities to develop his/her faculties, that there are no disabilities attached by birth, and that he/she is not subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex, colour, creed, caste or religion. Unfortunately in India there are sections of society which are denied social justice either on the basis of sex, or birth or religion. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have been suffering great social injustices and disabilities by birth. They are condemned to a position of inferiority and subordination to the higher castes. Our social heritage is partly responsible for this unfortunate phenomenon, but it is also our fault that we have not changed with the changing times. Caste system continues to be oppressively hierarchical in ( many parts of the country, despite constitutional safeguards and laws against it.

Another important section of society which has suffered a great deal of social injustice in India is women. This again is both due to our social traditions and due to our resistance to change. It is heartening to note, however, that the conscience of India has already awakened to this aspect of social injustice and it is on the way out gradually.

Another hindrance in the way of achieving social justice in India is the wrong interpretation of fate and Karma. People think that their position in society is pre-determined by their past actions. If they are poor or treated badly by society, they blame it on their past sins and bad actions rather than fighting injustice and making efforts to improve their lot. This attitude needs to be changed in order to create a proper climate and atmosphere for achieving social justice.

To sum up, if we want to ensure social justice in the country in its totality, that is on the economic, political as well as social fronts, the government and the society at large would need to work together. Economic planning, industrialization, urbanization, just distribution of economic benefits and rewards, state legislation on social matters etc. will only partially solve the problem of social justice. These remedies by themselves cannot guarantee ‘the highest possible development of persons’ which is-the goal of social justice. Change in social values, social attitudes and ‘social institutions is fundamental for achieving social justice. If people continue to remain under the’ influence of old traditions and beliefs, no amount of equitable distribution of resources will be successful in creating a right atmosphere for social justice. The basic thing is education. Change should begin within. Education should create a spirit of enquiry in the minds of the people. It should create a power of questioning the validity of social traditions and social institutions. Education should encourage inquisitiveness expressing itself in such questions ‘why should .this social value be observed?’ In this way a climate will be created in which we can achieve social justice. We need education that does not blindly pass on traditional beliefs, but one ‘that views it critically and selects from it, rejecting that which is obviously retrograde. A scientific system of education which creates healthy skepticism in the minds of the people, and which gives pride of place to ‘reason’ and rational thinking is the only road to salvation.

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