Inequality in a society is a reflection upon a failed system which has evidently permitted the presence of such an evil. In simple words, inequality implies that different groups in a society do not enjoy equal social rights and status these different groups may be based on gender, race, class or age but enjoy unequal access to goods such as food and property as well as goals like status, respect, liberty, health and well-being. Regardless of the cause of differentiation, discrimination on any basis is a social evil that needs to be uprooted to ensure development and growth of the peoples of the land. In my paper, I am going to concentrate on social inequality widely prevalent in rural India and the underlying rationale for such behaviour that is a cause of much concern and dilemma. Despite all the progress the country has made in recent times, this disconcerting issue needs solutions so that future development of the nation is not held back by such social ills education, in my opinion, will be the differentiating factor that will help free the society from such an evil.

In India, social inequality is a pervasive concern of a tremendous magnitude. Reforms are required at all levels to turn this issue around and solve the fundamental reasons that are inherent in the Indian society. The Indian economy is largely dragged back by social inequality and backwardness that ails the rural populations living therein and as such they are deprived opportunities for growth and development. All of Indias achievements particularly in the past decade seem to be severely compromised if one peeks at the true lives of the vast rural population. This controversial issue has remained a tremendous concern for several anthropologists and continues to haunt the Indian landscape till date. The notions and beliefs that contribute to such inequality have been found in the history of several civilizations across the world. However, such an evil is a serious threat to economic stability within a country and India is a victim. Although the educated urbanites have progressed far from such conventions, the bulk of the Indian population continues to thrive in unfavourable conditions at the sidelines of the rapid development taking place. It is imperative that the government takes certain strong measures to fix such evils otherwise economic prosperity will not hold for long.

In The Politics of Dirt and Gender, Lamb explicitly describes how the people of a remote village  Mangalidhi  in the state of West Bengal, India had conveniently divided the society into the four religious castes and the sole reason for belonging to a particular caste was the birth of an individual within that family. This implies that the caste system is ascribed by birth and is virtually unchangeable regardless of the amount of progress or education a person may achieve during their lifetime. Hirshfeld, a renowned social anthropologist had called this system essentialism whereby ones social class is determined naturally rather than their socio-cultural construction. The Hindu society and ideology is manifested in a vertical hierarchy of pure and impure castes (Lamb 2005 214). It is divided into four stratas as follows in order of their status Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras. Although the people living in any village are poor by most standards, there is a noticeable difference between the status of Brahmins and Sudras. The Brahmins are always involved in better occupations, own better homes and lead generally better lives than those belonging to the other castes.  The inequality in India is actually twofold one is based on the historic caste system while the other is reliant on gender. The gender discrimination is widely opposed and does not seem to be a pertinent issue in the urban areas however, the rural populations always succumb to pressures and provide home to such social ills. Discrimination based on any matter is further worse for the female group than their male counterparts. This was evident in several matters including hygiene - a lot of emphasis was placed on cleanliness among the Brahmins especially after having interacted with anyone from the lower castes.

However, men were believed to be less prone to dirt i.e., men did not have to bathe as often as women even after being exposed to the same impurities (Lamb 2005 219). Lamb discovered from Brahmin women that the reasoning behind this belief is based on the fact that things like menstruation, childbirth and defecation happen to women and that a womans body is vulnerable to outside agents the Brahmin women offered the analogy of jugs wherein women were compared to clay jugs while men were equalled to brass jugs (2005 220).

Rural India is a victim to inequality not just on the basis of caste system but also skin color among other aspects. Lighter shades of skin are considered more attractive for both genders yet more so for women who are expected to take care and protect the surface of their bodies. Although skin color is not the basis for ones caste in society, it has been observed that people belonging to higher castes are lighter in skin as compared to the lower caste simply by virtue of their nature of work the lower caste people are mostly seen toiling outdoors in the sun while the higher caste people are involved in white-collared jobs (Lamb 2005 223). Moreover, Lamb acknowledged that the advent of new products and skin lightening creams have furthered the trend among women to look after themselves by using these products to appear fairer and consequently more attractive.

The ideas and thoughts propagated by the villagers of Mangalidhi would not make a lot of sense to free and forward-thinking women from the West. Such thoughts are cultivated in the minds of the subjugated villagers who dont question these ideas but submissively adorn them into their lives to enable peaceful coexistence. As Thiongo puts it, this represents an oppressing culture that is trying to impose total silence on restive people (1997 616) although I was pleased to learn that several of the women Lamb communicated with during her stay in Mangalidhi did not believe in such ideas, the fact that they did not have the voice to raise and spread such messages is quite appalling. Nevertheless, I would consider this an important step absolutely crucial to bring about change in peoples attitudes and beliefs. The varying beliefs of some women, although subtle in nature, indicate that this may not be as fixed and rigid. The inequalities Lamb witnessed in Mangalidhi are commonplace and have found roots in the system and the culture of the people in order to alter this trend, an initial step would be to educate the people that such attitudes are detrimental and will only serve to destroy the essence of their society. Education has shown globally that individuals from economically disadvantaged groups can potentially turn things around for themselves after investing in a good education. By adapting the curriculum to meet the needs of the people, education can help instil values like self-confidence, recognition of strengths and pride that are certain to help all students including women overcome the many challenges that they may face en-route towards the attainment of social equality and equal opportunity it can provide people with the skills needed to improve their social prospects. Education can serve as a system with tremendous potential to solve several of the pressing social evils in the modern era it is a tool promising hope and optimism that a societys problems can be fixed by investing in educational reforms.

Africa, during the time of British colonialism, witnessed a similar phenomenon where discrimination prevailed on the basis of the color of the skin. However, with time, things have changed for the better. For instance, in Kenya, 35,000 whites work side-by-side with Africans who belong to the elite as well as the middle classes.

The Indian caste system, on the contrary, is further perverted by inculcating the process of othering i.e., completely disbarring certain segments of the population outside the caste system. The treatment received by dark-skinned individuals in Africa is quite similar to the treatment people who fall outside the caste system receive in India even today. This segment of the population is called dalits, literally meaning untouchables they constitute 15 of the Indian population which is about 160 million people. India provides a picture of a nation that is at the forefront of development and knowledge on one hand while it is haunted by historic social evils including poverty, illiteracy and inequality on the other. The urban and metropolitan areas house some of the most advanced individuals in their industries and women compete shoulder-to-shoulder with men for educational and professional opportunities. However, the rural villages are replete with examples where women face discrimination on countless matters every single day till the end of their lives. This is a genuinely disturbing image that calls for attention and the stringent of measures to rectify the situation. The rationale for such behaviour is deeply embedded in the age-old customs and culture of the traditional people education is the only factor that can reverse this phenomenon and promise long-lasting growth by freeing the society from such an evil.


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