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Dissecting social exclusion

A welfare state must also strive for holistic inclusion of human indices

Dissecting social exclusion

The concept of social exclusion, albeit new into the realm of Indian academics, has had a long past of discreet and disguised application in theory. It is the purposeful perpetuation of have-not at the hands of the privileged that has continued to socially, economically, politically, and psychologically marginalise a huge mass of people. The functionality of social exclusion has deployed a plurality of methods for its practices. The variable through which exclusion is introduced or practised is however of both, a structured nature and an unorganised cohort. Both of them interchangeably, and at times complimentarily, work towards establishing exclusion. This exclusion may or may not be purposeful or intended but it cannot be denied that it results in poverty, which is one of the main and the most visible parameters of exclusion. And poverty operates on a multi-level platform. It is difficult to find a solution to poverty for it entails other social concerns that are either a result of it or are perpetuated due to an absence of adequate purchasing power. It is thus a twin problem of social sustenance and exclusion.

Exclusion affected by who and how is always met with the parallel concern of why and what resistance it meets. The objective of a welfare state is not just to prevent exclusion or limit it to the minimal, but strive for a holistic inclusion of not just financial but also human indices.

Plurality of practice in the Indian democratic paradigm

Social exclusion and the need for inclusion emerged as an academic discipline in the late 1970's, to the scholarship of Rene Lenior. The French theorist highlights the deplorable condition of the people who, though a large number, are outside the circle of state welfare policy and developmental agenda. The cohort comprises destitute, orphaned, disabled, drug addicts, old and crippled, mentally unfit, and children. Lenior, through his work, takes a stand of the much higher moral ground as opposed to the continuous emphasis on economic expansion and scalability of a society. He argues that unless a human value is added to the realm of policy welfare, it cannot be truly said to be inclusive and holistic. Theories on social exclusion have since been carried forward with the works of Hilary Silver. She examines the execution of exclusion practice on a three-tier base. The crux of Silver's work may be said to centre around the financial assets and purchasing power of the elite who slowly began to dominate and dictate the policy framework in an attempt to perpetuate their self-interest.

Adding the financial aspect of the issue, Arjan De Haan highlights the concept of multi-level exclusion of the same individual. De Haan works towards establishing that a said individual, due to financial incapacity, has corollary social disadvantages that subject him to exclusion on multiple grounds at the same time. What is crucial then is the difference between poverty and exclusion. While the former is strictly individual-based and largely rested upon the economic aspect, the latter focuses on groups of individual and moves beyond the financial domain.

The departure from economic to human indices evaluations to study social exclusion rests upon the theory of Amartya Sen. For the report submitted to the - Asian Development Bank in 2000, his essay "Social Exclusion: Concept, Application, and Scrutiny", he highlights Adam Smith by quoting that "Being able to appear in public without shame" is the crux of exclusion. Sen argues that it is not merely financial isolation or exclusion but 'capability deprivation' and the corresponding psychological framework are important measures to evaluate the exclusion practice. Sen is also credited for differentiating between active (intended and purposeful) exclusion and passive (unintended and resultant) exclusion.

With plural theories in existence, the distinction of below poverty and exclusion, which makes the Indian society different, is the availability of extreme. It has a functioning and powerful informal economy to contain poverty and at the same time practice exclusion. The Indian canvas is painted with multiple exclusion strokes that have accommodated striking paradoxes which at times include social exclusion despite financial stability. Exclusion in India may be said to be practised in the following ways:

Dignity deprivation

The most stringent, invisible mode of exclusion in the Indian society is the non-acceptance of labour and conscious deprivation of dignity that has marred the inclusion effort. It is a continued effort to restrict social mobility in terms of granting a dignified acceptance. For instance, a tea stall vendor in a university campus or an office complex makes a good amount of money. In a few cases, it may be more than a lot of accepted prestigious positions. Yet, the only thing constant about him/her remains the imposed tag of a tea vendor and nothing beyond. This is despite the fact that he makes a fortune. He would still be subjected to humiliation or denied permission to access a few 'classified' or 'elite' agencies. Thus, the financial status does not guarantee social acceptance. He may be easily befriended in the social sphere but is not accepted in any personal space.

Quantum of electricity consumption

In a study conducted by IIT, Delhi, it was found that the disparity of electricity distribution in the city is striking. A city can be categorised on the basis of affluence (tier-1), government residential areas, semi-urban and adjoining rural areas which includes slum dwellings. It is also essential to note the family size and that urban and rural areas are fairly denser than that of tier-1 affluent areas. While a house in Delhi's posh Golf Links will have a 24 hour electric supply to the disposal of multiple gadgets and few users, the contrast is alarming. A house in Bhajanpura (semi-urban) or Seelampur slums (rural) will have a limited supply of electricity. It is also possible that such houses may have multiple members to a single tube-light. This is indicative of how individual requirement is secondary to influence and affluence. It may not be complete exclusion but can be exclusion or un-inclusion to the priority list.

Gender choice and societal construct

The Indian society, by and large, remains a fairly rigid one in terms of accommodating or accepting changes that deviate from the 'ideal' order. This order is a tradition that has been passed down and still grapples with the wishful thinking of not having to change. Prime among them is the social construct of gender perception and the denial of choice to adhere to one. The Indian mindset in the majority does not differentiate between 'sex' and 'gender'. It comes with no surprise that the choice of belonging to LGBT group brings despise and shame. Needless to say, such members may in all forms be socially boycotted and considered unfit or incapable of any merit. Example: gay academician Ashley Tellis was sacked from St. Stephens College, Delhi University on no valid grounds. It is an unstated fact that his unapologetic behaviour about his private choice had left the administration uncomfortable, despite his professional excellence.

Inter-class exclusion

The concept of purity and pollution has been the core of the Indian varna system. The ascribed status of caste has since long dominated the dealings of Indian society. Social interactions from dining together, marriages, or places of the settlement have considered caste as a dominant and deciding factor. It is a common practice of domination, exploitation, and resistance of marginalised community at the hands of the distinctly forward. However, recent times have seen clashes within a community based on superiority. Within a caste, higher will dominate the lower. The shift from vertical distribution of caste exploitation is now operational at the horizontal distribution as well. The latter being more discreet makes it more difficult to be addressed. A Brahmin of hymns will not have the marriage solemnised with a 'lower' Brahman.

Status of women

A woman of the Scheduled Caste has a minimum of 3 barriers imposed on her due to her ascribed status. One: that she a woman; second, that she belongs to the SC group; and lastly, a combined barrier of an SC woman. This framework is applicable to an astounding 30-35 per cent population of our nation. Merit or capability is first not trusted and/or is not fully accepted. Women are burdened with domestic responsibilities. The mental condition and psychological well being are not considered significant to be evaluated for the development of women.

Availability vs accessibility

The minority elite in India has a hegemonistic control over the resources. Unlike the western world where social security is worked into and ensured by the State, the national reality is disappointing. There have been various available resources like a super-speciality hospital, individual units, and good schools at the disposal of the native. This availability is, however, not accessible to a majority for it incurs heavy expenses. The people are then left with no choice but to return to existing poor resources. Contrary to this is the non-availability of such resources in regions, that are not capital regions linked to areas of affluence inhabitance. The last quarter of Indian villages do not have a motorable road, let alone functioning schools and hospitals. In a few cases, where there are Infrastructural setups, the quality remains an alarming concern.

Exclusion stands to be operational when a mass of individual are left outside to the benefits of any economic growth, social development, or political initiative of welfare. This left-out group does not have or acquire the advantage as opposed to the surplus that is at the disposal of the numbered few. Exclusion is the peripheral black that runs parallel to the developed white core. Unless the periphery is not adequately catered to the blots of black will continue to question the white.

(The author is a PhD Scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia University. The views expressed are strictly personal)

Sangya Dubey

Sangya Dubey

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