Saturday, February 20, 2010

Today(20th February) is World Day for Social Justice



 - Fr. Cedric Prakash sj *


February 20th : 'The World day of Social Justice!'  A time for each one of us to reflect on the realities around us and how best we need to justly respond to them. 


It is not without reason, that the fathers of our Constituent Assembly, insisted that 'Justice' (social, economic and political) be the core principle in our Preamble and in fact, that it permeates every dimension of our Constitution.


 It should therefore, be a cause of concern that in several parts of India, 'exclusion' rather than 'inclusion' is slowly becoming the order of the day. The recent happenings in Mumbai where one group decided to define to whom the city belongs to, is a case in point.  The very notion of parochial or jingoistic politics runs contrary to the idea of justice.  This time there were definitely some protests and netizens throughout the world (though invisible) were very vocal in their condemnation.  The sad fact, however, is that there is no serious build up within civil society to resist such injustice.


Closer home, a recent Planning Commission Report highlights the fact that 31.8% of Gujarat lives below the poverty line; and that among the major Indian states, Gujarat has slipped from the 6th to the 8th position in poverty ranking.  This is truly alarming for a State that boasts of an "economic vibrancy" and a growth rate apparently higher than the national average.


In several spheres, Gujarat still woefully lacks an environment of justice.  Defenders of the unjust system are quick to point out to the "so-called" industrial growth, the road network and what not.  Unfortunately, that does not take away from the hard reality that large sections of society still constitute the under-belly and are denied their basic rights. Justiciable food entitlements is denied to the sub-alterns. Eight years after the Gujarat Carnage, most victims still knock at every possible door for a ray of hope and a chance to live as citizens of the state. 


There are systemic injustices which continue to keep the Dalits, the Adivasis and other vulnerable sections away from access to a more dignified life.  In recent weeks several Christian institutions across the State have received 'Notices' from the authorities with queries which are blatantly anti-Constitutional and obviously meant to intimidate and harass. 


No amount of 'cosmeticization' can hide the fact, that if one truly wants to ensure justice for all, endemic issues have first to be addressed with a political will.  Amartya Sen in his tome, 'The Idea of Justice', puts it simply in a statement "Justice being seen to be done".


The best and only way, to observe the World Day of Social Justice, is to make this a reality!



(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)


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