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Social Inequaltiy & Social Exclusion

What is Social about Social inequaltiy and Exclusion?

Social Inequaltiy

o Social tSratification

  • Social Exclusion
  • Caste and Tribe- System justifying inequaltiy
  • Untouchabiltiy
  • State and non state initiatives addressing caste Discrimination.




Sruggle for Women’s equaltiy rights

The struggle of Differently abled.

  • For most of us who are born and live in India, social inequality and exclusion are facts of life.
  • This everydayness of social inequality and exclusion often make them appear inevitable, almost natural.

What is Social Inequality?

  • Social inequality is the existence of unequal opportunities and rewards for different social positions or statuses within a group or society.
  • (Money, property, Education, Gender, Wealth, caste, status, power etc.)

What is Social Exclusion?

  • Social exclusion refers to ways in which individuals may become cut off from full involvement in the wider society.

What is ‘social’ about social inequality and exclusion?

  • They are not about individuals but about groups.
  • They are social in the sense that they are not economic,
    • although there is usually a strong link between social and economic inequality.
  • They are systematic and structured
    • there is a definite pattern to social inqualities.
  • In every society, some people have a greater share of valued resources– than others. These social resourcescan be divided into three forms of capital
  • Economic capital

assets and income

  • Cultural capital

educational qualifications and status

  • Social capital

networks of contacts and social associations

  • Often, these three forms of capital overlap and one can be converted into the other.
    • For example, a person from a well-off family (economic capital) can afford expensive higher education, and so can acquire cultural or educational capital.

Patterns of unequal access to social resources are commonly called social inequality.

What is Social Stratification?

  • Sociologists use the term social stratification to refer to a system by which categories of people in a society are ranked in a hierarchy.
  • This hierarchy then shapes people’s identity and experiences, their relations with others.

Principles of social stratification:

  • It is a Characteristic of society
    • society-wide system
  • It Persists over generations.
    • Traditional occupation
    • Ascribed social status
    • Endogamy
  • It Supported by patterns of belief, or ideology.
    • caste and race, purity and pollution

People often face discrimination and exclusion because of their gender, religion, ethnicity, language, caste and disability.

Prejudices and Discrimination lead to Social Inequality

  • Prejudices is a Prejudgment
  • Based on stereotypes
    • Stereotypes are fixed ideas that people have about a particular person or ethnic group but in reality it is not true
  • Prejudices have no base and are often based on hearsay and not concrete evidence.
  • It can be negative or positive
  • If prejudice describes attitudes and opinions, Discrimination refers to actual behaviour towards another group or individual.
  • Discrimination can be seen in practices that disqualify members of one group from opportunities open to others o When a person is refused a job because of their gender or religion.

Social Exclusion

  • Social exclusion refers to ways in which individuals may become cut off from full involvement in the wider society.
  • Exclusion from the prevailing social system and its rights and privileges, typically as a result of poverty or the fact of belonging to a minority social group.
  • Prevent individuals or groups from having opportunities open to the majority of the population.
  • Social exclusion is not accidental but systematic – it is the result of structural features of society.
  • Continues discriminatory or insultingbehaviour may promote a victim of social exclusion to stop trying for inclusion
  • For example, ‘upper’ caste Hindu communities have often denied entry into temples for the ‘lower’ castes and specially the Dalits. After decades of such treatment, the Dalits may build their own temple, or convert to another religion like Buddhism, Christianity or Islam.
  • Social exclusion takes place against the wishes of the victims
  • India like most societies has been marked by acute practices of social discrimination and exclusion.
  • At different periods of history protest movements arose against caste, gender and religious discrimination.

In this chapter we focus on four such groups who have suffered from serious social inequality and exclusion

  • Dalits
  • Adivasis or ‘tribal’
  • women,
  • Differently abled.



The caste system as a discriminatory system

  • Caste system is a distinct Indian social institution that enforces practices of discrimination against people born into particular castes.
  • These practices of discrimination are humiliating, exclusionary and exploitative.
  • Historically, the caste system classified people by their occupation and status.
  • Every caste was associated with an occupation.
  • Each caste also had a specific place in the hierarchy of social status.
  • In strict scriptural terms, social and economic status were supposed to be sharply separated.
  • There was close correlation between social (i.e. caste) status and economic status o The ‘high’ castes were almost invariably of high economic status, while the ‘low’ castes were almost always of low economic status.
  • Compared to a hundred or fifty years ago, the correlation between caste and economic status is also weaker – rich and poor people are to be found in every caste.


  • Is an extreme aspect of the caste system.
  • that prescribes stringent social sanctions against members of castes located at the bottom of the purity-pollution scale.
  • The ‘untouchable’ castes are outside the caste hierarchy.
  • ‘Distance pollution’ existed in many regions of India (particularly in the south) o such that even the mere presence or the shadow of an ‘untouchable’ person is considered polluting.

Three main dimensions of Untouchability

  • Exclusion
    • Dalits :prohibited from sharing drinking water sources or participating in collective religious worship, social ceremonies and festivals. o Same time also involve forced inclusionin a subordinated role
  • Humiliation-subordination
    • imposition of gestures of deference
    • (such as taking off headgear, carrying footwear in the hand, standing with bowed head, not wearing clean or ‘bright’ clothes, and so on)
  • Exploitation
    • Economic exploitation, Low wages,

The so-called ‘untouchables’ have been referred to collectively by many names over the centuries.

  • Mahatma Gandhi had popularised the term ‘Harijan’ (literally, children of God) in the 1930s.
  • ‘Dalit’, which is now the generally accepted term for referring to these groups
  • The term Dalit literally means ‘downtrodden’ and conveys the sense of an oppressed people.
  • The Dalit Panthers, a radical group that emerged in western India during that time, used the term to assert their identity as part of their struggle for rights and dignity.


  • The Indian state has had special programmes for the SC/ST since even before Independence.
  • The ‘Schedules’ listing the castes and tribes recognised as deserving of special treatment because of the massive discrimination practiced against them were drawn up in 1935, by the British Indian government.
  • After Independence, the same policies have been continued and many new ones added.
  • Added OBC -1990s.
  • The most important state initiative attempting to compensate for past and present caste discrimination is the one popularly known as ‘reservations’.
  • Reservation involves the setting aside of some places or ‘seats’ for members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes in different spheres of public life.
  • Proportion of Seats
    • SC/ST – Equal %
    • OBC- differently
    • exclusively for SC
    • exclusively for ST

Reservation of seats in the

  • State and Central legislatures
  • (i.e., state assemblies, LokSabha and
  • RajyaSabha); jobs in government service
  • Educational institutions.

Laws passed to end, prohibit and punish caste discrimination, speciallyuntouchability.

  • Caste Disabilities Removal Act of 1850
    • Prohibited and punished caste discrimination
    • allow entry of Dalits to government schools.
  • Constitution Amendment(93rd Amendment) Act of 2005, became law on 23rd


  • Reservation of OBCs in higher education institutions
  • Article 17 – abolished untochability
  • Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989 revised
    • Strenthened the legal provisions punishing acts of violence or humiliation against Dalitsandadivasis.

Persons and Organizations -upliftment for dalit

  • Jyothibaphule
  • Periyar
  • Ambedkar
  • BahujanSamajParty in Uttar Pradesh or the
  • Dalit SangharshSamitiofKarnataka,

Other Backward Classes (OBC)

  • A large group of castes that were of low status and were also subjected to varying levels of discrimination short of Untouchability.
  • The Constitution of India recognises the possibility, who suffer from social disadvantages other than SC/ST.
  • These groups were described as the ‘socially and educationally backward classes’.
  • This is the constitutional basis of the popular term ‘Other Backward Classes’ (OBCs), which is in common use today.
  • The first government of independent India under Jawaharlal Nehru appointed a commission to look into measures for the welfare of the OBCs.
  • The First Backward Classes Commission headed by Kaka Kalelkarsubmitted its report in 1953. But the political climate at the time led to the report being sidelined.
  • From the mid-fifties, the OBC issue became a regional affair pursued at the state rather than the central level.
  • The Second Backward Classes Commission headed byB.P. Mandalin 1990
  • When the central government decided to implement the ten-year old Mandal Commission report, that the OBC issue became a major one in national politics.
  • The large disparities between the upper OBCs (who are largely landed castes and enjoy dominance in rural society in many regions of India) and the lower OBCs (who are very poor and disadvantaged, and are often not very different from Dalits in socio-economic terms) make this a difficult political category to work with.



  • The adivasis are marked by poverty, powerlessness and social stigma.
  • The ‘jana’tribe were actually people of the forest.
  • Live in the hills and forest areas.
  • North –eastern areas- most of tribal concentration.
  • Non-tribals have moved into the tribal districts of central India, while tribal people from the same districts have migrated to plantations, mines, factories and other places of employment
  • Their economic and social conditions are usually much worse than those of nontribals.
  • The impoverished and exploited circumstances under which adivasis live can be traced historically to the pattern of accelerated resource extraction started by the colonial British government and continued by the government of independent India.

From the late nineteenth century

  • The colonial government reserved most forest tracts for its own use.
  • Denied access to forests and land for cultivation, adivasis were forced to either use the forests illegally.

The Independence of India in 1947

  • The government monopoly over forests continued.
  • The exploitation of forests accelerated.
  • The policy of capital-intensive industrialisation adopted by the Indian government required mineral resources and power-generation capacities which were concentrated in Adivasi areas.
  • Adivasi lands were rapidly acquired for new mining and dam projects.
  • Millions of adivasis were displaced without any appropriate compensation or rehabilitation.
  • Justified in the name of ‘national development’ and ‘economic growth’, these policies were also a form of internal colonialism, subjugating adivasis and alienating the resources upon which they depended.
  • Projects such as the SardarSarovar dam on the river Narmada in western India and the Polavaramdam on the river Godavari in Andhra Pradesh will displace hundreds of thousands of adivasis, driving them to greater destitution.
  • These processes continue to prevail and have become even more powerful since the 1990s when economic liberalisation policies were officially adopted by the Indian government.
  • It is now easier for corporate firms to acquire large areas of land by displacing adivasis.
  • Many tribal groups have been waging struggles against outsiders (called ‘dikus’) and the state.

The term Adivasi- Literally meaning ‘original inhabitants’

The term was coined in the 1930s as part of the struggle against the intrusion by the colonial government and outside settlers and moneylenders.

  • In post-Independence India,
  • The most significant achievements of Adivasi movements include the attainment of statehood for Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, which were originally part of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh respectively.
  • In this respect adivasis and their struggles are different from the Dalit struggle because, unlike Dalits, adivasis were concentrated in contiguous areas and could demand states of their own.



  • Gender inequality is often treated as natural.
  • Scholars have shown that the inequalities between men and women are social rather than natural.
  • Nothing biologicalabout the inequalities that mark the relations between women and men.
    • If women were biologically unfit to be inheritors and heads of families, how did matrilineal societies (as the Nairs of Kerala used to be, and as the Khasis of Meghalaya still are) work for centuries?

How have women managed to be successful farmers and traders in so many African societies?

  • Gender is thus also a form of social inequality and exclusion like caste and class, but with its own specific features.
  • The women’s question arose in modern India as part of the nineteenth centurymiddle class social reform movements.
  • The nature of these movements varied from region to region.
  • Many of these reformers were from the newly emerging western educated Indian middle class.
  • They were often at once inspired by the democratic ideals of the modern west and by a deep pride in their own democratic traditions of the past.
  • Anti-sati campaign led by Raja Ram mohun Roy in Bengal,
  • The widow remarriage movement in the Bombay Presidency
  • Social reform movement in Islam led by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan.
  • Roy undertook the campaign against “sati” which was the first women’s issue to receive public attention.
  • JotibaPhulecame from am socially excluded caste and his attack was directed against both caste and gender discrimination
    • SatyashodakSamaj
      • emphasis on “truth seeking”. For women and untouchables.
  • M.G. Ranade’s writings entitled the The Texts of the Hindu Law on the Lawfulness of the Remarriage of Widows and Vedic Authorities for Widow Marriage elaborated the shastricsanction for remarriage of widows.
  • Books related to Women’s Protest
    • ‘StreePurushTulana’written in 1882 – TarabaiShinde
    • Protest against the double standards of a male dominated society.
  • ‘Sultana’s Dream’written in 1905. – Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain

Sultana visits a magical country where the gender roles are reversed.

  • In 1931, the Karachi Session of the Indian National Congress issued a declaration on the Fundamental Rights of Citizenship.
    • All citizens are equal before the law, irrespective of religion, caste, creed or sex. o No disability attaches to any citizen, by reason of his or her religion, caste, creed or sex, in regard to public employment, office of power or honour, and in the exercise of any trade or calling.
    • The franchise shall be on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
    • Woman shall have the right to vote, to represent and the right to hold public offices.
  • Women’s issues re-emerged in the 1970s o In the 19thC reform movements, the emphasis had been on the backward aspects of tradition like sati, child marriage, or the ill treatment of widows.
    • In the 1970s, the emphasis was on ‘modern’ issues :

Rape of women in police custody

Dowry murders,

The representation of women in popular media, Gendered consequences of unequal development.

  • The law was a major site for reform in the 1980s and after
  • As we enter the 21thC, new sites of gender injustice are emerging.
    • fall in the child sex ratio and the implicit social bias against the girl child represents one of the new challenges of gender inequality.



  • The rights of the disabled have been recognised only very recently.
  • In India labels such as ‘disability’, ‘handicap’, ‘crippled’, ‘blind’ and ‘deaf’ are used synonymously.
  • The common perception views disability as retribution for past karma (actions) from which there can be no reprieve.
  • Terms such as ‘mentally challenged’, ‘visually impaired’ and ‘physically impaired’ came to replace the more trite negative terms such as ‘retarded’, ‘crippled’ or ‘lame’.

Here are some common features central to the public perception of ‘diability’ all over the world.

  • Disability is understood as a biological given.
  • Whenever a disabled person is confronted with problems, it is taken forgranted that the problems originate from her/his impairment.
  • The disabled person is seen as a victim.
  • Disability is supposed to be linked with the disabled individual’s self perception.
  • The very idea of disability suggests that they are in need of help.

The social construction of disability has yet another dimension.

  • There is a close relationship between disability and poverty.
    • Malnutrition,
    • mothers weakened by frequent childbirth,
    • inadequate immunisation programmes,
    • accidents in overcrowded homes,
  • Furthermore, disability creates and exacerbates poverty by increasing isolation and economic strain
  • It is only recently with the efforts of the disabled themselves that some awareness is building in society on the need to rethink ‘disability’.
  • Recognition of disability is absent from the wider educational discourse.
  • The disablement lies in the construction of society, not in the physical condition of the individual (Brisenden)

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