The Indian Society has suffered from the menaces of social and economic inequalities, caste-based discrimination and purging of minorities for centuries. But the nation’s independencestruggle and its ultimate triumph remains the greatest testimony to the world of the power of apeople united in the spirit of nationalism. The Constitution of independent India is amanifestation of the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. An inclusive society was the visionof the makers of our constitution. But even after independence the perils of inequality anddiscrimination lingered on. The post-independence era witnessed the reemergence of these vices which had subsided during the independence struggle. Although attempts at tackling these were made in the form of social reform legislations, economic and social disparities continue to plague the society.
Over the past two decades, India has made a successful transition from an economy that was growing at best at a moderate rate to one that has become one of the principal drivers of the global economy in the post–crisis phase. The GDP growth rate, the investment rate and the savings rate have steadily increased. The charm of high growth is, however, obliterated by the fact that the distribution of benefits arising from the growth dynamics is highly skewed. Large sections of the population are precluded from partaking in the benefits of the economic growth which is evidenced by the rising economic disparities. The lack of inclusion has two broad dimensions, economic and social, which analysts have pointed out, mutually reinforce each other. The most obvious manifestations of economic imbalances are the high incidences of poverty, wide income inequality and high rates of unemployment. These can be attributed to the inequality in access to essential services, particularly those related to education and health, which in turn is the result of social exclusion, “the process through which individuals or groups are wholly or partially excluded from full participation in the society in which they live” .
Exclusion is thus both the cause and the effect. It is antithetic to ‘inclusive growth’, which is the “process that yields broad?based benefits and ensures quality of opportunity for all” as envisioned in the constitution particularly in the preamble, in chapter III and in the Directive Principles of State Policy. Inclusive growth is to be primarily achieved at the levels of Reduction Of Poverty, Reducing Unemployment, Social Justice And Empowerment, Environmental Sustainability , Gender Equity, Access To Essential Services and Governance. Basely et el (2007) considers inclusive growth as the “growth that has a high elasticity of poverty reduction”, i.e., higher reduction in poverty per unit of growth. The ability to generate an adequate number of productive employment opportunities will be a major factor on which the inclusiveness of growth will be judged.Rapid growth focused on labour-intensive industries and small and middle enterprises will create employment opportunities in the manufacturing and services sectors.
The ability to create jobs will be enhanced by greater labour flexibility which may require some changes in labour laws. Access to essential services is an indispensable aspect of equality of opportunity. Copious theoretical studies have demonstrated that the idea that both the pace and pattern of growth are critical to accomplish a high, sustainable growth record, as well as poverty reduction, is consistent with the findings in the Growth Report, Strategies for Sustained Growth and Inclusive Development. The vision of inclusiveness must go beyond the traditional objective of poverty alleviation to encompass equality of opportunity, as well as economic and social mobility for all sections of society, with affirmative action for SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and women.
There must be equality of opportunity to all with freedom and dignity, and without social or political obstacles. The commission, in the report found that inclusiveness, a concept that incorporates equity, equality of opportunity, and protection in market and employment transitions is an essential element of any successful growth strategy. The Commission on Growth and Development (2008) regards systematic inequality of opportunity “toxic” as it will disturb the growth process through political means or conflict. Another strategy of achieving inclusive growth must be one that not only preserves and maintains natural resources, but also provides equitable access to those who do not have such access at present. This requires international co-operation to develop forms of burden sharing for alleviation as well as adaptation that are just and equitable to all nations. Recognizing the depth of the problem of social exclusion based on gender,an integrated approach towards gender equity is also the need of the hour. Identifying and rectifying the flaws and drawbacks in the previous schemes and programs and improving the governmental machinery for implementation and expansion of strategies for inclusive growth through is the most crucial aspect in our stride towards inclusive growth.
The need of the hour, thus, is a comprehensive and balanced approach in achieving inclusive growth and distributive justice as part of it.