JUST SOCIETY or a DEVELOPED NATION?
There is much talk about “Development” in the political parties’ campaign for the forthcoming elections to the 16th Lok Sabha.
Indeed, ‘Development’ is also one of the primary subjects of global debate. There are international institutions dedicated to the promotion of ‘Development’. Nations are also ranked on the basis of ‘Development’.
Many so-called ‘Underdeveloped’ nations, including India, are in a race to join the club of ‘Developed’ nations, even though the latter are not paragons of justice in the way they behave with the rest of the world.
What is missing, almost completely, in the contemporary national and global debate is the focus on “Justice”.
Justice is the life-breath of Development. Without Justice, Development is lifeless – indeed, it is oppression.
Development should not be measured only in terms of the rate of GDP growth or per capita income, Much less should it be equated with highways, vehicular population, number of mobile users, per capital electricity consumption, etc. These are important and necessary, but they make sense only to the extent that they promote economic, social, cultural, political and gender Justice.
It is true that Justice requires socio-economic Development. For example, injustice is in-built into poverty, hunger, homelessness and lack of opportunities for education and healthcare.
However, if Development is pursued without conscious attention to Justice, it is possible to see many outward manifestations of prosperity without people experiencing a sense of justice.
Very often, ‘Development’ hides various forms of inequality and deprivation which are nothing but denial of ‘Justice’.
It also happens that, in the mad rush for ‘Development’, institutions and individuals conduct themselves in such a way that they do not care for ‘Justice’ to others. To them, ‘Development’ becomes an end in itself.
Let’s ask ourselves this question: India is far more prosperous now, in the materialistic sense of the term, than it was in 1947 when it won freedom from British rule. But is there greater justice in Indian society now?
The answer to this question does not present a clear black-and-white picture of the Indian reality.
Yes, there is indeed greater justice in the sense that the Indian citizens, on average, are living longer. Many gross forms of injustice and inhuman behaviour ─ such as untouchability, atrocities on scheduled castes and tribes, violence against women, etc ─ have been outlawed. Legislatively backed Affirmative Action policies have helped many belonging to deprived communities come up in life.
All these changes are highly welcome.
Yet, the growing and unbalanced focus on economic growth in recent decades, leading to ‘Development’ being seen largely in materialistic terms, has also seen ‘Justice’ evaporate in the conduct of institutions and individuals.
• Corruption, which has infected every arm of governance including the judiciary, is INJUSTICE.
• The mad scramble for natural resources, and the reckless destruction of the environment, is INJUSTICE.
• The rich-poor divide, which has grown to unprecedented levels, is injustice.
• Politics of religious divide is INJUSTICE.
• Commercialisation of human relations is INJUSTICE.
• Neglect and ruination of the heritage of traditional arts and culture is INJUSTICE.
The point is this: ‘Justice’ is a broader and more fundamental ethical concept than ‘Development’.
So much of so-called ‘Development’ is debated and pursued without any consideration for ethics. But it is impossible to debate and implement ‘Justice’ without recognising that it is an inescapable ethical obligation.
Throughout history, human minds and hearts have always responded to the cry of ‘Justice’ ─ economic justice, social justice, political justice, justice in the conduct of institutions and individuals, gender justice, justice towards the weak and needy, and, in recent times, environmental justice.
Do we want India to become a JUST SOCIETY or a DEVELOPED NATION?
LET’S SHIFT THE DEBATE FROM ‘DEVELOPMENT’ TO ‘JUSTICE’.
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