*   INTRODUCTION 
    This Unit introduces the critical role of equality in democracy, with specific reference to India. The Constitution of India guarantees equality to all citizens. Despite this, the daily lives of people in India are far from equal. Equality is a key feature of democracy         and influences all aspects of its functioning. In this chapter you will read more about equality-what it is, why it is important in a democracy, and whether or not everyone is equal in India.

*   INEQUALITY AND DISCRIMINATION    
    There are many people who live in democratic India and who have the right to vote but whose daily living and working conditions are far from equal. Apart from being poor, people in India experience inequality in different ways. - 
    1. Inequality due to caste system
    2. Religious differences
    3. Racial differences
    4. Gender disparity 

1.    One of the more common forms of inequality in India is the caste system. 
      Omprakash Valmiki is a famous Dalit writer. In his autobiography, Joothan, he writes, "I had to sit away from the others in the class, and that too on the floor. The mat ran out before reaching the spot I sat on. Sometimes I would have to sit way behind             everybody, right near the door…sometimes they would beat me without any reason." When he was in Class IV, the headmaster asked Omprakash to sweep the school and the playground. He writes, "The playground was way larger than my small                  physique could handle and in cleaning it, my back began to ache. My face was covered with dust. Dust had gone inside my mouth. The other children in my class were studying and I was sweeping. Headmaster was sitting in his room and watching me. I        was not even allowed to get a drink of water. I swept the whole day,…From the doors and windows of the school rooms, the eyes of the teachers and the boys saw this spectacle." Omprakash was made to sweep the school and the playground for the           next couple of days and this only came to an end when his father, who happened to be passing by, saw his son sweeping. He confronted the teachers and then walking away from the school holding Omprakash's hand, he said loudly for all of them to hear,    "You are a teacher…So   I am leaving now. But remember this much Master…(He) will study right here…in this school. And not just him, but there will be more coming after him."

    The second story is based on an incident that took place in one of India's larger cities and is common practice in most parts of the country. It is a story about Mr and Mrs Ansari who were looking to rent an apartment in the city. They had the money and so     paying the rent was no problem. They went to a property dealer for help to find a place. The dealer informed them that he knew about quite a few apartments that were available for rent. They visited the first apartment and the Ansaris liked it very                    much and decided to take it. However, when the landlady found out their names, she made an excuse about how she could not rent the house to someone who ate meat because the building did not have any non-vegetarian residents. Both the Ansaris and   the property dealer were surprised to hear this because they could smell fish being cooked in the neighbour's house. The same excuse was repeated in the second and the third apartments. Finally, the property dealer told them that they might want to  change their names and call themselves Mr and Mrs Kumar. The Ansaris were reluctant to do this and decided to look some more. In the end, it took a whole month of looking at apartments before they found a landlady who was willing to give them a place on rent.


Recognising dignity
 When persons are treated unequally, their dignity is violated. The dignity of both Omprakash Valmiki and the Ansaris was violated because of the way in which they were treated. By picking on him and making him sweep the school, because of his caste, Omprakash Valmiki's schoolmates and teachers hurt his dignity badly and made him feel as if he was less than equal to all other students in the school. Being a child, Omprakash Valmiki could do very little about the situation that he was in. It was his father who, on seeing his son sweep, felt angry by this unequal treatment and confronted the teachers. The Ansaris' dignity was also hurt when persons refused to lease their apartments to them. However, when the property dealer suggested that they change their name, it was their dignity or self-respect that made them refuse this suggestion.

Omprakash and the Ansaris do not deserve to be treated like this. They deserve the same respect and dignity as anyone else.

2.    Inequality was also due to religious differences. Forgetting true worth of religion, certain extreme elements began to praise their own religions and preach hatred for others. India was partitioned on the basis of religion. There is, thus, no denying the fact          that religious differences lead to inequality.

3.    Inequality is sometimes caused by racial differences as well. For a long time there was racial difference between the whites and the blacks in the United States. In the recent past there was racial discrimination in South Africa.

4.  Sometimes the cause of inequality can be the result of gender disparity. It is said that women in India on the average are paid less then 40% of what men are paid. Both economically and health-wise, women in many countries of the world are                           discriminated against. Infant mortality is the higher among girls than among boys.
    When persons are treated unequally, their dignity is violated. The dignity of both Omprakash Valmiki and the Ansaris was violated because of the way in which they were treated.Omprakash and the Ansaris do not deserve to be treated like this. They                deserve the same respect and dignity as anyone else.


    What is Aparthied ? 
Solution
    Apartheid was a policy of seperation or segregation followed by the white minority government against the non white majority population of South Africa. 

Why does people refuse to think of dalits as equals.
Solution
    One of the main reasons for this is that attitudes change very slowly. It is only when people begin to believe that no one is inferior, and that every person deserves to be treated with dignity, that present attitudes can change. Establishing equality in a                democratic society is a continuous struggle and one in which individuals as well as various communities in India contribute. 

*    EQUALITY IN INDIAN DEMOCRACY
    The Indian Constitution recognises every person as equal. This means that every individual in the country, including male and female persons from all castes, religions, tribes, educational and economic backgrounds are recognised as equal.

*    EQUAL RIGHT TO VOTE    
    In a democratic country, like India,all adults irrespective of what religion they belong to, how much education they have had, what caste they are, or whether they are rich or poor are allowed to vote. This is called universal adult franchise and is an                    essential aspect of all democracies. The idea of universal adult franchise is based on the idea of equality because it states that every adult in a country, irrespective of their wealth and the communities she/he belongs to, has one vote.

This recognition of equality includes some of  the following provisions in the Constitution :
(I)    Art.14 of the constitution provides that the State shall not deny any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. Every person is equal before the law. What this means is that every person, from the President         of the country to Kanta, a domestic worker, has to obey the same laws. 

(II)    Art.15 states that no person can be discriminated against on the basis of their religion, race, caste, place of birth or whether they are female or male. Every person has access to all public places including playground, hotels, shops and markets. All                  persons can use publicly available wells, roads and bathing ghats. 

(III)    Art.16 guarantees Equality of opportunity in matters of public Employment, it say that :

  •      There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
  •      No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth or any of them, be ineligible for any employment under the State.


(IV)    Art.17 ensures that untouchability has been abolished.

(V)    Art.18 ensures abolition of titles.

*    IMPLEMENTATION OF EQUALITY
    The two ways in which the government has tried to implement the equality that is guaranteed in the Constitution is first through laws and second through government programmes or schemes to help disadvantaged communities. There are several laws in        India that protect every person’s right to be treated equally. In addition to laws, the government has also set up several schemes to improve the lives of communities and individuals who have been treated unequally for several centuries. These schemes         are to ensure greater opportunity for people who have not had this in the past.

Mid-Day Meal :
    One of the steps taken by the government includes the midday meal scheme. This refers to the programme introduced in all government elementary schools to provide children with cooked lunch.This programme has had many positive effects.

(I)    These include the fact that more poor children have begun enrolling and more regularly attending school with the midday meal being provided in school, their attendance has improved. 

(II)    Their mothers, who earlier had to interrupt their work to feed their children at home during the day, now no longer need to do so. 

(III)    This programme has also helped reduce caste prejedices because both lower and upper caste children in the school eat this meal together, and in quite a few places, Dalit women have been employed to cook the meal.

(IV)    The midday meal programme also helps reduce the hunger of poor students who often come to school     and cannot concentrate because their stomachs are empty.
         Even today there are several schools in the country in which Dalit children, like Omprakash Valmiki are discriminated against and treated unequally. These children are forced ito unequal situations in which their dignity is not respected. This is because           people refuse to think of them as equal even though the law requires it.    
        One of the main reasons for this is that attitudes change very slowly. It is only when people begin to believe that no one is inferior, and that every person deserves to be treated with dignity, that present attitudes can change. Establishing equality in a               democratic society is a continuous struggle and one in which individuals as well as various communities in India contribute.  

*    ISSUE OF EQUALITY IN OTHER DEMOCRACIES
     In many democratic countries around the world, the issue of equality continues to be the key issue around which communities struggle. So, for example, in the United States of America, the African-Americans whose ancestors were the slaves who were         brought over from Africa, continue to describe their lives today as largely unequal. This despite the fact that there was a movement in the late 1950s to push for equal rights for African-Americans were treated extremely unequally in the United States and        denied equality through law.

    Rosa Parks was an African-American woman. Tired from a long day at work she refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man on 1 December 1955. Her refusal that day started a huge agitation against the unequal ways in which African-Americans      were treated and which came to be known as the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion or national origin. It also stated that all schools would be open to African-American children and          that they would no longer have to attend separate school specially set up for them.

*    GLOSSARY
    Universal adult franchise : This is a very important aspect of democratic societies. It means that all adult (those who are 18 and above) citizens have the right to vote irrespective of their social or economic backgrounds.

    Dignity : This refers to thinking of oneself and other persons as worthy of respect.

    Constitution : This is a document that lays down the basie rules and regulations for people and the government in the country to follow.

    Civil Rights Movement : A movement that began in USA in 1950s in which African-American people demanded equal rights and an end to racial discrimination.

What do you know about mid day meal scheme?
Solution
    One of the steps taken by the government includes the midday meal scheme. This refers to the  programme introduced in all government elementary schools to provide children with cooked lunch.

What is Article 16 ?
solution
    Art.16 guarantees Equality of opportunity in matters of public Employment, it say that :

  •      There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.
  •      No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth or any of them, be ineligible for any employment under the State.

Who was Rosa Parks?
Solution
    She was an African American woman. She started civil rights movement.
 

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