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Thursday, January 21, 2010

What are meant by Equity and Social Justice in the context of environment?

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The relational satisfaction in terms of perception of fair distribution of resources within interpersonal relationships is called as equity (Adams, 1965).

The term “equity” was first developed by John Stacy Adams in 1963. Equity in the sense of environmental Management relates to equal distribution of resources and equal sharing of benefits of development by all the sections of society.

The need of searching such a term indicates that there might had been and still there may be some places or areas where resources might not had been or still may not be distributed equally and all the sections of society may not be allowed to share benefits of development. Yes, the programmes of modern development have not been supporting equally to all the sections of society.

The Equality of Gender and its principles have been enshrined in the Constitution of India- in its preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Indian Constitution not only grants equality to women, but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. The advancement of women in different spheres has been aimed within the framework of our democratic policy, laws, developmental policies, plans and programmes etc. A marked shift in the approach to women’s issues from welfare to development can be observed right from the fifth Five Year Plan (1974-78) onwards.

It has been of a common experience that poor have always been sufferers during the constructions of mega-dams, power stations, industries, hospitals etc. The Green Revolution benefitted big farmers only as the poor farmers could not afford machines and agro-chemicals. Thousands of poor families have to migrate leaving their habitats and their shares of natural resources for ever. Many tribal populations have to face multiple migrations after being displaced during developmental activities. The environmental management should therefore ensure that natural resources are shared equally by every section of society so that the poor may not remain poor for ever and the underdeveloped may gain full chances of proper development. On the International Level, we have the example of a few developed nations exploiting maximum resources of the world. The International efforts are being made to fill this gap of disparity.

Now, what is social justice? Well, a concept of society in which justice is received in every aspect of social lives of individuals rather than merely in the area of the administration of law, is called as Social Justice.

There is injustice in many societies of the world. It is of common observation that some groups of people are consistently privileged while others are consistently disadvantaged. According to an opinion, “the social justice is about preventing human rights’ abuses and ensuring adherence to the International Law. Issues of minority groups, international justice, and issues pertaining to women and children come under the process of social justice. Social justice on International level refers to war crimes, and crimes against humanity, including genocides".

The term Social Justice was coined by the Jesuit Luigi Taparelli in 1840s. It is considered to be one of the four pillars of the Green Party. Green parties are there in every parts of the world. About 800 delegates from 70 countries of the world (called as Global Greens or Green Parties) gathered in Canberra, Australia in April 2001.These representatives of different nations signed a Global Green Charter which is a document committing Global Partnership and to six guiding principles which are – Ecological Wisdom, Social Justice, Participatory democracy, non-violence, sustainability and respect for diversity.

The social Justice as defined by the Green Parties “is a principle that all persons are entitled to basic human needs regardless of superficial differences such as economic disparity, class, gender, race, ethnicity, citizenship, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability or health. This includes the eradication of poverty and illiteracy, the establishment of sound environmental policy, and equality of opportunity for healthy personal and social development”.

Social Justice can be viewed as a concept which is used to describe the movement towards a socially just world. It is based on human rights and equality. In this sense social justice can be defined as the way in which human rights are manifestated in the every day lives of people at every level of society.

Social justice is based on the same principle of equitable distribution of resources. If we consider rural areas we experience that industries are expanding on agricultural lands. The landless poor have to migrate elsewhere to work as labourers and to earn their bread. The projects of development are causing migrations of thousands of people who face problems of rehabilitation for many long years. All these incidents come under the category of social injustice. The environmental management should work for the establishment of social justice together with the development. The social justice can only be established through equitable distribution of benefits and through equal rights of all the sections of society on natural resources.

In India we have a separate Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. How was this ministry formed in India? Let us know from the Ministry itself. “In the year 1985-86, the erstwhile Ministry of Welfare was bifurcated into the Department of Women and Child Development and the Department of Welfare. Simultaneously, the Scheduled Castes Development Division, Tribal Development Division and the Minorities and Backward Classes Welfare Division were moved from the Ministry of Home Affairs and also the Wakf Division from the Ministry of Law to form the then Ministry of Welfare. Subsequently, the name of the Ministry was changed to the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment in May, 1998. Further, in October, 1999, the Tribal Development Division had moved out to form a separate Ministry of Tribal Affairs. In January, 2007, the Minorities Division along with Wakf Unit have been moved out of the Ministry and formed as a separate Ministry and the Child Development Division has gone to the Ministry of Women & Child Development”.

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