A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much and so many have so little. – Bernie Sanders
Inequality in wealth, opportunities, healthcare, education, livelihood and social status has divided the society into the classical ‘Haves’ and the ‘Have-nots’. The discrimination has spawned over centuries and the effects are just getting worse. But, concerted efforts from change makers have set the wheels of a better future, in motion.
#economyforall is our attempt at understanding the cause of inequality and in this blog series, we have tried to piece together the ground reality with the help of experts from various fields. According to us, lack of basic necessities, opportunities, unequal level of education, crony capitalism, and the macroeconomic factors are some of the prime facets that fuel inequality.
In our recent interaction, Ashoka Fellow and the Founder of LeapForWord, Pranil Naik, lent us a futuristic perspective of equality.
Equality and Equity
When asked about his view on the Inequality in India, Pranil said,
“for me, equity is more important than equality”.
What is the difference?
Equality brings about an unfair distribution of resources. And Equity is the most important parameter for the prosperity of any community or economy.
“Equity is hope. It gives out the meaning that, ‘I don’t have what you have today, but the equitable state of society makes me believe that I will have it in a legitimate way.”
Why do we need Equity more than Equality?
Equality is addressing the needs for today without a guarantee that the future will be equally just and unbiased. Equity on the other entails sustainable development that ensures that the future is promising and carries hope for those who cannot afford a comfortable lifestyle and all the basic necessities.
Inequality in Healthcare of Mothers
The problem at the forefront is that children from rural and tribal areas are deprived of opportunities as against their urban counterparts. The ideal solution would be to have equality, where every child goes to the finest school.But in reality, this is not possible. It is not possible to have too many fine institutions who display an equal parlance in their quality in terms of their service.
Students in tribal or rural areas are very bright, street smart with great survival instincts. But they are unable to understand simple concepts while learning. It would be surprising to know, but the care given to expectant mothers in rural areas is responsible for the child’s development in the future.
If you dig deeper, you realise that while their mothers were expecting them, they never received nutritious food during their period of gestation. Lack of nutritious food during pregnancy has a direct impact on the well-being and overall growth of the child which is why most of the children in rural and tribal areas lack the intellect and ability to understand simple concepts of learning.
“As against this, an equitable end state would be – Can every expectant mother today and in future get a nutritious meal so that the child has a level playing field?”
A well to do child will always have a better head start because the mother was administered a nutritious diet and care during her pregnancy. The poorest child born at the same moment as the other child should have a level playing field. The level playing field here would be, the child born to a poor mother is equally healthy – physically and mentally as the rich child. From here on it’s an equal competition of who has a better life.
What are the basic levers of Equity?
Pranil believes that there are certain basic levers or factors, necessary for every individual to have a fair chance of making it big in their lives:
- Provision of nutritious food during pregnancy
- Education – an investment for an equitable end state
- Law and Justice – If a poor person gets robbed or violated, the chances of that person getting justice should be no less than what a rich person can have
- Healthcare – Although difficult, the provisions should be made for the poorest person to get good treatment in times of terminal illnesses like cancer and at an affordable price.
“Measures for today address equality. Measures for tomorrow create equity.”
Anyone who wants to solve this problem or create a solution to improve this situation should think, “Do I want to address the problems for today or ensure a better and a promising tomorrow?” Today is easier, populist. Populist measures will always address problems of today. And that is where the real challenge lies.
The problems in India are not populist, they are chronic and they need a long-term, sustainable solution.
Cover image: LeapForWord.