Indian impoverished and downtrodden masses in a way resemble Hanuman for they tend to forget their own power and potential, unless reminded. They need to be prompted time and again to prove their mettle. Hanuman could realise and use his innate capabilities like flying across the oceans, lifting the mountains, enlarging his body, etc, only when Jambavan nudged him to unblock his mental barriers. Similarly, the people of disadvantaged sections of society can hardly make use of their latent talents and attain their prospects unless their intellectual blocks are removed.
Downtrodden people of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes account for a quarter of India’s population and with addition of other disadvantaged groups viz, backward classes and minorities, the figure goes up to 70%. These sections of society suffer in one way or the other from traditional, circumstantial and socioeconomic disabilities in terms of lack of land ownership, hereditary capital transfer, knowledge acquisition, entrepreneurial initiatives, etc.
No doubt that financial stability and secure employment will help the disadvantaged and downtrodden masses develop to some extent but not to their full potential and deepest esteem. A highly educated person of a marginalised community may not be able to assert her views as long as she remains in-audacious. A senior ranking official belonging to a disadvantaged group cannot command respect in society if she does not unshackle herself from the fetters of inferiority complex.
Such instances are not uncommon where some of the downtrodden people, despite achieving political status, education and monetary affluence, don’t seem to boldly face the challenges and problems, which they encounter routinely in an unequal social environment like India.
Whatever the efforts that are being made by the government, philanthropists and NGOs to empower the disadvantaged groups, are of course commendable, but the outcomes are not truly encouraging since the societal attitudes have not yet changed for better due to culmination of certain negative factors, which have been ingrained in public mind over the centuries of continued historical wrongs. This is also because positive empowerment through socioeconomic measures alone will not yield the desired results.
Enabling mechanisms such as motivating them to realise their abilities and strength and to pursue avocations of their interests as well as vesting at the same time legitimate responsibilities in them will again work only up to a certain limit. Hence, it can be surmised that their full-fledged empowerment can be achieved if they are activated to overcome psychosocial and attitudinal hurdles. Because, unlearning defeatist thoughts and negative habits that obstruct creativity, potential, inquisitiveness and enthusiasm plays a major role in empowerment.
Lebanese-American thinker Nassim Nicholas Taleb said, “Negative knowledge is more robust to error than positive knowledge.” The same observation was corroborated by the celebrated Swiss author Rolf Dobelli as, “What not to do is more potent than what to do.” Therefore, knowing and implementing what is to be eschewed becomes pivotal in the art of empowerment.
The Five Is
As per my observation, there are five Is, which dangerously infest the psyche of most of the unlucky people. They are ignorance, illiteracy, irrationality, inferiority and in-audacity, the unlearning of which will facilitate all-round empowerment.
1. The first ‘I’, that is ignorance, forms the basis of superstitions, causing a multitude of barriers to opportunities. For example, restrictions put on crossing the seas in the name of unfounded beliefs during the medieval era created a sort of confinement for the people, as a result of which overseas opportunities in trade and employment were lost. Designation of days and timings as good and bad, among other things, disable the spirit of initiative.
2. Next is illiteracy, which is the stumbling block to acquisition of modern skills. Being poor and landless, the downtrodden’s sole means of survival is manual labour, which is gradually ceasing to be relevant with the advent of robotics and automation. Unless the whole of disadvantaged people get educated, there is no possibility to mould them into technologically productive human resources in the contemporary digital world.
3. The third negative factor is irrationality, which causes obstacles to personal advancement. Irrational bent of mind inflicts inimical attacks on the personality of individual in a debilitating manner. We are aware that 18th century Europe could achieve social enlightenment, industrial revolution and commercial development only when reason and truth dominated people’s thinking.
4. Inferiority feeling is the other factor that manifests in silent submissiveness on the part of the victims of social inequality. South African Black Consciousness Movement leader Steven Biko reasoned that acquiescence to the notion of inferiority becomes the weapon of the oppressor. Former American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt used to remind, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” If the marginalised people are able to get rid of inferiority complex, they will hardly harbour servile mentality.
5. The last ‘I’ stands for in-audacity. The downtrodden, who were placed at the lowest rung of the ancient social hierarchy for centuries together, still show evolutionary fearful tendencies, which wear away their self-confidence. Dr Peter Belmi of the University of Virginia found in a study that the people of lower classes tend to be less confident about their abilities; which means that they feel less competent despite the fact that they are fully competent actually. Such demoralising attitudes adversely impact their endeavours. Hence, unlearning in-audacity will help them take up challenges and seize opportunities confidently and competently.
Therefore, by unlearning these five Is, the disadvantaged masses can make themselves aware of the things and situations around their existence so as to appreciate what is what, introspect what is right, critique what is wrong and explore as to how to realise their true potential. Simultaneously, it becomes the bounden responsibility of the government to play Jambavan as an effective facilitator for the disadvantaged groups, who in turn, like Hanuman, ought to manifest their calibre in action for their own good as well as for the betterment of the nation through their productive output.
(The author is former DG Cyber Crimes, Bhopal)