Uploaded on 24 March 2020
Ensuring human dignity
Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
In the first article of this series we posited that God bestowed dignity on humans: men, women, blacks, whites, yellow races, the wheatish and the reds, as well as on followers of all faiths and atheists – Hindus, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, atheists, agnostics, animists and a whole range of in-between categories.
The principle of human dignity is enshrined in the UN Charters, Constitutions of different countries and their laws and moral principles. But have you ever cared to think how many people on earth today have never been treated with dignity because of their statelessness, or their refugee-status, or their low earning, or “low” caste.
These are very important issues for people who want to treat others with respect and sympathy. In today’s global population nearly ten percent of them do not have sufficient food, clean water, access to reasonably good education, housing and protection from the violence of more powerful groups. These minorities, refugees and stateless people are particularly prone to discrimination as justice-delivery systems shamelessly favour the aggressors. Is the dignity of such unprivileged being protected by anyone: the powerful groups, the governments, the police, the judiciary, the society? The answer is a resounding “No.”
Then what is the point of giving lip service to it?
Also consider whether people who have been allowed by the state to be looted and killed and their shops and workshops to be looted and burnt down and survivors to move around like stray cattle in search for a small, subsistence-level earning, can have dignity? The “goli maaro" (shoot them) provocateurs and rioters are roaming free while the victims are being sent to jail right under the nose of the PM and President, in the shadow of national parliament, barely half an hour’s drive from the national and state government hub.
In our first article we quoted the first real economist and 18th century philosopher, Adam Smith, insisting that a dignified life is not possible without a certain degree of economic wellbeing. Democracy as a form of government is seen to be more supportive of human dignity compared to other forms of government.
However, today democracy has been reduced to mere periodic elections (often preceded by poisonous propaganda and violence against the weak). Democratic institutions, including Election Commission, CAG, judiciary, and myriad others have lost credibility. There is an economic wellbeing angle to democracy also, without which democracy cannot function well. Several years ago, Fareed Zakaria wrote in his classic Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracies at Home and Abroad, that democracy cannot flourish in a country with less than $ 5,000 per capita income. Today, this figure must be reckoned to $ 9,000-10,000.
In our effort to establish human dignity we must keep this in mind and give wealth creation its due importance , not just on the level of elite industrialists, but also on lower scale. We must struggle for the establishment of human dignity in every possible way.