Development stands (ironically should) for building up institutional integrity and individual capacity encapsulated in dignity and a sense of embracing self esteem of all entities. It has to be modeled on the conduciveness in which potential of a human being abounds with opportunities entwined with freedom and not leaving someone in shackles.
Turning around to another paradigm which ensures development is our Constitution which designed to be a congregation of co citizens while most of the Laws far progressed on to become instruments of the market. The supreme law of land has however withstood the pacing time to retain the promise of equality and dignity for all whilst the absence of a unified spirit of consensus for confronting issues that affect across unequivocally.
As law students, we are taught to remember and preach that Justice is the first virtue of society. At least that’s what Mr. John Rawls says which naturally means that the whole task of justice is to produce fair principles for social cooperation. Though, in the new world order, role of development has assumed much more importance than the rule of law leading to a trajectory of lopsided development. But what to delve into nuances of this modern discourse, when we couldn’t escape the unjust origins of division?
On the onslaught of an unprecedented deadly global pandemic COVID-19, a nationwide lock down has been imposed in India. The origin of the Virus continues to be under investigation but it is just like how every catastrophe rolls out in the most disproportionate and unjust manner taking a toll on the innocents and helpless. Soon after the lockdown, millions of doomed migrant and daily wage laborers haplessly marched back to their home states leaving behind their places of work due to despair and panic. Legally, we do not have a framework to deal with workers working in the informal sector which is basically 90% of the workforce. The aftermath remains even more disturbing as it is predicted that the Pandemic is going to further push away more into the clutches of poverty.
Honorable Justice Krishna Iyyer, of the Supreme Court of India once remarked while penning down a judgment that being poor in this country does not mean that it is a crime. The very humane architecture of dispensation of social justice that he attempted to lay down for the unrepresented strata of our society got denuded by the Apex Court’s remarks a couple of days back on the migrant workers left to fend for themselves. It stated that why do migrant workers need daily wages in this time when they are being provided food? Thus, drifting far away from all the essential facets of right to life inflated into Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. While the Court chose not to meddle into the affairs of executive machinery which might be correct from the point of overarching judicial activism yet it still leaves an indelible scar of institutionalized disdain for the impoverished.
For every splash of water that hit the migrant worker for sanitizing them, there oozed out our long standing comfort with an unjust rigid social stratification, which has defined us as a civilization for centuries. Whether it is this apathy or it is the ordeal of massive Climate Change refugees around the porous region on the eastern borders of India, whose plight got accentuated by the way an arbitrary executive disenfranchisement exercise panned out which could not weigh itself on the kind of attitude the entire state machinery had adopted. Be it on a humane front or on a policy landscape, obliviousness and lack of remorse leads to an incorrect presumption of true magnitude of the crisis that lies ahead.
In the midst of World War Two, a powerful spectrum of thought was implored which was the idea of Four Freedoms by Roosevelt, the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear symbolizing the impetus to fight and win. Perhaps, freedom from want and fear doesn’t seem to be giving the rigor to fight a war against walls within the society that are in built.
While some fret over watchful consumption of internet, not being able to go out, eating the food of our choice, I cannot but think of the agony of my fellow citizens who have lived under much more trying lock downs which is nothing as compared to the one we are witnessing or the vast majority of poor people who sleep empty stomach. Conversations on initiating Human Rights issues are shrugged off as potentially politicizing development and are considered unnecessarily embarrassing, but it is inevitable as much as it is true, for when political ideologies and institutions fail humans, the necessity for honing humanity and fraternity becomes insurmountably paramount.
It’s time we start peeling off the layers of justified injustice as it is already late.