Will ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’ end untouchability?

New Delhi (IANS) Can Prime Minister Narendra Modi governments ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas agenda ensure fulfillment of Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of ending social discrimination like untouchability?

This question may be asked as the country celebrates 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation, who had fought against discrimination based on caste and religion. Dalits, particularly, have borne the brunt of such kind of discrimination for centuries.

Gandhi had been emphasizing that untouchability is a blot on humanity and therefore upon Hinduism. He would say that untouchability was a sin, a great crime.

India’s ancient caste system places Hindus into four main categories, divided into some 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, with Dalits at the very bottom and known officially as ‘scheduled castes’.

India’s constitution—whose main author, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, was a Dalit—outlaws caste discrimination, yet prejudice remains rife in everyday life. Dalits are often denied basic rights such as attending regular schools, accessing public water supplies—and staging marriage processions.

Defying the caste system and embracing their identity, Dalits have increasingly taken to the streets to demand better treatment, driven by rising education levels, greater entrepreneurship and a growing awareness of their political clout.

In the current scenario, when the Modi government is celebrating Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary on October 2 in a major way, it remains to be seen whether the Prime Minister’s agenda of ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’ would eventually help address the problem of untouchability.

The concept of ‘sabka sath, sabka vikas’, according to Modi, is to ensure welfare of every section of society and taking everyone along, without any discrimination.

Modi has been laying stress on this slogan ever since he came to power in 2014. He added ‘sabka vishwas’ to the slogan after returning to power this year, while contending that this mantra was responsible for the emphatic victory the party led by him got in the Lok Sabha elections.

He emphasized this point even during his latest address to the UN General Assembly, highlighting the need of public participation for people welfare, which leads to welfare of the entire humanity.

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