We all must have heard about inequality regarding a lot of issues in India. Some people say our nation if facing a big problem of gender inequality, at the same time I have heard a lot of people saying we are facing a huge problem of gender inequity. Initially I thought it’s just the mispronunciation of a term but when I actually searched it in dictionary, I was able to find both the words. Although I was able to find both the words in dictionary and their meaning, I was not sure whether everyone have a clear understanding of difference between these words or not, and its fascinating that these two words share a similar meaning as well as spelling. So, I started asking people about it and I was surprised to see the results. Among 15 activist fellows, from different educational and cultural background, none of them were able to answer my question correctly. Here I will quote a few responses.
- Both the terms are same
- I don’t know
- Inequality is about people and inequity is about material (funny one indeed!)
Clearly, there is a huge gap in understanding of these two terms among people and unfortunately a very few them know the real difference. So, let us talk about both of them separately and then I will tell how we can relate both of these terms. As there are various scenario we can relate these terms to, I will explain it in reference to some of the most popular problems in India.
India being too diverse in context of wealth, intelligence quotient and opportunities, it’s really hard to measure all people on same scale. Even in Indian politics, some people like Mr. Kalam, our former president is there on the other hand we have highly pseudo intellectual leaders like Rahul Gandhi (ps. My intentions are not making political comments), who is more popular in social media jokes than politics. Being a country with a large number of people still poor and living in slums, we have highly rich people like Shahrukh khan, a Bollywood actor with the net worth of $600 million, if compared with the net worth of one of the most popular Hollywood actor, Leonardo DiCaprio which is $216.8 million comes to be approximately 1/3rd of our Bollywood actor Mr. Khan. There are lot more data and stats which shows clearly that there is a large inequality within India. Most of the children in India are still unable to get the primary education, while we have great higher studies institutions like IIT’s, MNNIT’s, IIM’s and superior medical institutes like AIIMS. Historians say that Indian education system before 1835, was one of the superior education system in world, that lord Macaulay destroyed badly. And at the same time, the Great Britain had worst education system which was completely dependent on education in church for orphans called CONVENT. But this is a completely different topic of discussion altogether. The point I want to make is about the difference of wealth and resources and geographical development which affect the kind of education children of different category get. If we talk about the difference in literacy, on the basis of geographical location, Kerala is 93.91%, while in Jammu & Kashmir, it reduces up to 65.57%. So, the point is, these differences seems to be largely dependent upon natural conditions and aspects, not because of any kind of discrimination. Inequality refers primarily to the condition of being unequal and it tends to relate to things that can be expressed in numbers. Now let us talk and understand about the Inequity
Inequity unlike inequality cannot be understood through data and stats. It’s more about the emotional quotient of a person. Let me explain it with the help of a few examples for better understanding. A very big issue being faced in India is “maternal mortality”. A report by Indian Express shows that India has the highest number of maternal mortality in world. Around 17 % or nearly 50,000 of the 2.89 lakh women who died as a result of complications due to pregnancy or childbearing in 2013. Now there are several reasons leading to this large number of maternal mortality in which India is leading the world and the UN has become highly conscious about this. One of the reason is girls are getting married at a very young age and they have little knowledge about early pregnancy. The situation is even worse in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. One suspected cause is also doctors don’t want to practice medicine in villages where the mortality is highest as they get very less money in comparison to cities. Now here there is a clear case of injustice being happening with the women of India especially in rural areas. One more example here I can quote is women in India get less wages for same work in comparison to males. Here, there is no geographical or financial or any other statuary condition affecting this problem. We have a clear case of discrimination here. It’s about the people’s mentality and stereotype that women are not as productive as males, provided the fact that there is no scientific explanation for this stereotype. Inequity can be called as a synonym of injustice or unfairness so it can relate to more qualitative matters.
Now, if we talk about the relation between inequality and inequity, we can actually come up with the solutions of a number of serious issues being faced by our country. It’s a huge topic of discussion and design thinking if we argument here that how we can reach to a solution by using the combined efforts of inequality vs inequity. I will just quote an example of a solution, where we use inequity to reduce the problem of inequality. From my previous discussion about inequality vs inequity, its quite clear that we can easily take an initiative to reduce the problem of inequity, as its clearly visible that something is going wrong and we have to stop that. While in the case of inequality, its more about the nature its really hard to change the nature, so as inequality. The example I am going to tell here is the “tax system”. The tax slab proposed by Indian govt. clearly divides the amount of tax being paid by different people according to their earnings. If someone earns less than 2.5 lac per annum, he is not liable to pay any income tax, similarly, as the income increases, percentage share of income tax also increases. Now in a way, the tax slab of Indian govt. depicts inequity, but just imagine if we take the same amount of tax with Mr. Amani and we charge the same tax to a poor man working in fields to grow crops. The poor man will not even be able to pay the income tax of an year, his whole life. In that case, the indian govt. have to imprison that person. And if we see the data, India has the maximum number of population of farmers and most of them are poor. In a way if we do not do this inequity of taxation, our govt. will end up making our country, a country of slaves, where most of population will be imprisoned. It seems to be a horror story indeed.