The concept of equality in every niche of a society has been applied by humans ever since they started to band together. The early tribes engaged in hunting and gathering food. The sole purpose of coming together and expanding their community was to suffice the basic necessities of existence, namely- food, shelter, protection, warmth and mate.
With their bare minimum needs being taken care of, they proceeded to develop ideas and thoughts that gave each of their community distinctive identities and shaped the first societies. The Vedic Age ushered the concept of equality in society, but as the time progressed, the society was slowly divided into castes, and had become patriarchal. Even so, citizens commanded respect and had their own rights and privileges, living in content.
Such a Utopian society, where each and every member of a society shares a communal sense of equality, is what an egalitarian society stands for.
The social scene of the Indian peninsula has been quite dynamic. Throughout the history of our sub-continent, it has been through wars, invasions and visits by foreign traders. Be it Turks, Afghans, Greeks or British, with every wave, came a drastic change of concepts that controlled the society. But war has always led to one man’s gain and a million men’s loss. Every time the thriving kingdoms were plundered by another ruler, it would leave behind a string of maladies.
By the time India had become a democratic nation, it already had millions of people who had been victims of social discrimination that had put them in the state of negligence. This was further enhanced by the government’s blissful ignorance of their plight.
After 71 years of independence, our country still has numerous citizens who are devoid of many privileges and rights that the elitist society is enjoying. This India is nowhere near egalitarian.
The demographic study of India has classified about 70% of her population to be rural. Farmers, dairy workers, shopkeepers, tailors and artisans are the example of the working class rural population, while landlords, dairy and poultry owners are some example of the upper class citizens. The 30% of urban and semi-urban population is clearly divided between upper class, middle class and lower class.
While the social stigma regarding casteism and similar malpractices, is one of the deep-rooted causes of economical segmentation. Another important cause that brings in the concept of social status is none other than education. The upper class, calls itself ‘upper class’ because it consists of the educated majority of the society.
They look down upon the slightly less educated middle class, and the much lesser educated lower class, whom they often derogate using Hindi terms such as “unpad” or “gawaar”. The very fact that formal education is used as a yardstick to measure one’s capabilities might be a bit flawed. But as Alexander G. Bell once said,
“Educate the masses, elevate their standard of intelligence, and you will certainly have a successful nation.”
Crores of people are living in poverty across the urban and rural landscapes. Farmers are committing suicide due to non-payment of loans as their crops are failing. Women are being denied their fundamental rights. Youth are remaining unemployed. These are just a few of the long list of problems that are present in the history of our developing nation. The governments have rolled out some relief schemes.
The recent budget reveals including the PM-KISAN and PM-Shram-Yogi Maandhan Scheme have been initiated for the rural and the urban unorganised sector. But such schemes only solve the problem on surface. As long as we do not implement educational programs to strengthen the mind and provide them with knowledge, the underprivileged will never be able to climb out of their situation.
While plans like IDMI and SPQEM for the youth and Saakshar Bharat or Jan Siksha Sansthaans for the adults do exist to improve the quality of education provided by our schools, they are not being enforced, and in some cases, do not have a far reach. There exist students who have to walk miles to reach to the nearest schools. Staff absenteeism and shortage of teachers is also a widespread case that has been plaguing the government schools.
Senior school students fill in for the adults to teach the junior students, sweep the classrooms and serve the mid-day meals. The teachers themselves are not properly educated, teaching subjects and topics that are beyond their comprehension, but are in reality, just basic primary school stuff. Adult education is also in shambles.
Most of the uneducated adults are unaware of the existence of Jan Siksha Sansthaans or any scheme that is aimed for their empowerment. More importantly, the mentality of the general grown-up middle class and lower class public resists the idea of education at their age, deeming it futile and a ‘waste of time’, and invest time in doing unproductive activities.
Their casual attitude towards education is a major reason of unemployment, poverty and malign living conditions in the working class people.
Education is the light that will disperse the darkness of ignorance. As responsible citizens it is our duty to spread this light to the farthest nooks and corners of our nation. Transportation services should be provided for students who travel long distances in rural areas to go to school. Regular inspection visits should be performed by the Basic Shiksa Adhikaris of all the districts to check staff absenteeism.
Biometrics attendance should be mandatory for both students and teachers. Trained teachers with genuine knowledge should be assured to each and every educational institute. This can be achieved by introducing teaching licenses granted to individuals after successfully completing training in government recognised training institutes.
Such teachers will be well qualified and hence, would also deserve better wages and have a better status in the society. Emphasis is to be laid on practical knowledge that will entitle the students to gain professional competence. College and university students can also volunteer to teach the underprivileged children as well as uneducated adults. Access to primary education should be made free of cost to the disadvantaged, to attract them.
It is only if our ‘lower class’ populace is educated, they will be able to stand on the same turf as the upper and the middle classes. The future farmers will be able to select good variety of seeds, fertilisers and know methods to tackle crop failure. They will also be more observant about loans and market prices making them economically stable. Women will be aware of their rights and become more self-reliant.
Moreover, educating a woman is equivalent to educating a household. The youth will have extensive professional knowledge to thrive in their chosen line of work. They will gain employment, become financially independent, and might even become employers themselves, heading start-ups and businesses.
The teachers will be more proficient in their job. Teaching as a profession will once again be recognised as a noble profession. Such a future will definitely empower the silenced voices that dwell in the dark, cramped and unhealthy slums or the mud houses with only one bulb in the villages.
They will not feel inferior to the babus living in the big buildings while the latter will change their opinion about the level of education and conventional stereotypes they reserved for the common folk. Once this is achieved, every citizen of India will be able to look each other in the eye with dignity.
They will enjoy and share the same benefits and joys of life. Hence, equality will be established, both moral as well as social only if we stress on educating the masses. Then only our society will become a perfect egalitarian example.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~Nelson Mandela.