~By Nalini Bhattar
Development is a process that creates growth, progress, positive change or the addition of physical, economic, environmental, social and demographic
components. The United Nations defines community development broadly as ” a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems. A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being “above”, “below”, or “at the same level as” one another. A hierarchy can link entities either directly or indirectly, and either vertically or diagonally. Our society is based on vertical hierarchy.
A vertical hierarchy is the more traditional organizational structure. It’s characterized by a pyramid-like model that integrates levels spanning from low to high.
Hierarchy and development are interrelated to each other in their own way.
With hierarchy, i.e. vertical hierarchy, in society there is biasness, either consciously or unconsciously, which leads to division, indifference and power structure. Thus, uneven development takes place. Entities at the top of the pyramid develop and while those at the bottom degrade and the gap between the two keep increasing.
In order to reduce this gap to minimum we need social policies. Social policy is concerned with the ways societies meet human needs for security, education, work, health and wellbeing. Social policy addresses how states and societies respond to global challenges of social, demographic and economic change, and of poverty, migration and globalisation. It analyses the different roles of: national governments, the family, civil society, the market, and international organisations in providing services and support across the life course from childhood to old age. These services and support include child and family support, schooling and education, housing and neighbourhood renewal, income maintenance and poverty reduction, unemployment support and training, pensions, health and social care. Social policy aims to identify and find ways of reducing inequalities in access to services and support between social groups defined by socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, migration status, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age.
In India, all of these social policy’s meanings and aims that are obtained from minimum needs, citizenship rights and social inclusion are resignified to create hierarchical inequalities. Inequalities that are existing in terms of caste and gender.
Several policies were made along the lines of rights such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in the realm of employment, the Right to Education Act in the realm of schooling, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana in the realm of health insurance, and the poor people’s housing scheme called Indira Awas Yojana for ‘Below Poverty Line’ (BPL) households and excetra. These programmes have been seen as playing an important role in the lives of the poor. But implementation of them faced serious challenges from delay to filch. The targeted policies also
became,somehow, a source of unfairness and unjustness when, for example, some socio‐economic groups who might not have been BPL households, but still experienced social insecurity, were denied entitlements. As said by economist MICHAEL KREMER, human welfare is possible only when the marginalised and vulnerable are at the centre of policy making.
With Covid-19 everything in the world has taken a 360 degree turn. From
markets to hospitals to the domestic sphere, every sector is shattered. With the existence of hierarchy in our society, this novel virus has given way to more inequalities to exist. In Italy, the doctors and nurses fighting the pandemic there have shared experiences of prioritisation while giving care to corona patients.
They chose young lives over older people. Similarly, if the crisis of pandemic goes out of control in India, then here also hierarchy of patients will take place. It will be difficult, then, to avoid medical divide amongst patients which will be based on society’s existing fault lines such as age, caste, sex, intellectuality and so on. The privileged will be protected and those who are not privileged will be left to die. With this a sense of important and unimportant divide has emerged as the country was racked by exodus due to Covid-19 . Hundreds of workers flee cities as wages evaporate and many walking hundreds of miles to their homes, while some died before reaching their destination.
This emergence of gap and differences among important and unimportant has again highlighted the fierce existence of hierarchy and how due to this some people’s source of development has been blocked as any means of growth and progress is not taking place due to importance and accessibility and mobility has been denied to them.