It is clear that discrimination against people or groups of people on the basis of religion, race, gender, and caste results in their impoverishment, making it difficult to meet their basic needs for a decent lifestyle. Although poverty is an economic phenomenon, discrimination and poverty can also be linked to injustice. A person who is poor has fewer chances to succeed in the economy.
Discrimination is explicitly addressed in the Indian Constitution. It is illegal to use language that encourages or promotes discrimination against persons based on race, caste or religion (section 153 A of the Indian Penal Code 1860). In practice, however, we still have a lot to do.
Discrimination based upon religion, race, gender and ethnicity continues to hinder efforts to create a just society in India and the rest of the world.
The United Nations declares March 1 Zero Discrimination Day to highlight inequalities and inspire the world to end discrimination. India is not immune to discrimination or inequality. Zero Discrimination Day isn’t just about highlighting discrimination. The day’s core purpose is to encourage everyone to speak out for zero discrimination and those who are being discriminated against.
Discrimination and poverty
India’s Constitution is clear about its stance on discrimination in all forms. It has attempted to combat the malaise with progressive legislation throughout the years. The most obvious and direct result of discrimination is poverty.
It is not a coincidence that India has nearly the same number of people who are poor as its illiterate population. India has around 270 million poor people and approximately 272 million unliterate people. Discrimination begins in rural India for children born in areas that lack access to quality education.
Equal access to healthcare is not available for the poor. A survey by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation between 2017 and 18 found that 90% of India’s poorest citizens had no form of medical insurance. Experts believe that India’s high health costs cause people to become poorer and push the very lowest income families back into poverty.
It’s no surprise that the 2015 Government of India report stated, “The incidence of catastrophic spending because of health care expenses is growing and is now considered to be one of major contributors to poverty.” The impact of health care costs on families can negate the benefits of income growth and any Government scheme to reduce poverty.
To lift people out of poverty, the government and the social sectors can offer education and access to good health.
Pandemic’s Impact on Poverty
A study by Pew Research Center shows that the Covid-19 pandemic drove 75 million people more into poverty in 2020, according to an Pew Research Center . The number of Indian poor (living on $2/day or less in purchasing power parity) has increased by 134 million to 134 million, from 60 million in 2020. According to some estimates, the number of rural poor has increased from 217million in 2012 to 270million in 2019-20. Urban areas, however, have seen a drop of 53 million to 71 millions. An increase in the absolute poor to around 70 million
Recent research has shown a link between malnutrition, and Covid-19-related deaths. A study found that children and adults with Covid-19 who have had a history of malnutrition had a higher likelihood of dying and required mechanical ventilation.
A better future
If we stand up and take action to eliminate discrimination in our lives, there will be no discrimination. Ending poverty remains the biggest challenge. India has helped hundreds of millions of people escape poverty since independence. But, there is still a lot of work to do. Discrimination can be ended by breaking the cycle of poverty and giving the opportunity to the marginalised to participate in economic activity.