India is home to some of the greatest leaders of the world: Gandhi, The Dalai Lama, Tara Singh and Mother Teresa to name a few. Many of the millions in India have followed their policies on economy, religion and society, allowing more scope for people to have rights and freedom, with those who struggled to receive it before. Although, the legacy of these leaders is hard to assert and establish for a lengthy period of time in a country such as large and diverse as India. India is known in the western world for its squalid conditions and sheer volume of poverty, which poses the policy of human rights for reflection within India, no matter who people follow.
India has a vibrant civil society with a melting pot of religions, lifestyles and culture. Although all proud and patriotic Indians, there are at times, clashes between the classes. Those who are lower class, are formerly known as “Dalits”- untouchables, have little hope of equality. This proportion of people face social stigma and economic hardships on an entirely different level. Laws are provided by the government to create a catalyst for change, however are not implemented by local officials, and so little support is given. According to the Human Rights Watch 2013: “many women, children, Dalits (so called untouchables), tribal communities, religious minorities, people with disabilities and sexual and gender minorities remain marginalized and continue to suffer dissemination because of government failure to train public officials in stopping discriminatory behaviour.” Communities such as these are lacking support through economic hardships, social problems and healthcare. The healthcare system does not have enough facilities to cater for the large population within India. The public sector is hard to come by, and special treatment is given to those who are able to pay for their treatment. The private sector of healthcare for 70% of households is in urban areas and 63% in rural, which is a substantial amount. Although, those who miss out, are likely to suffer for their inability to fund their healthcare, and will receive no treatment. With 1 in 10 deaths in India due to poor sanitation and hygiene, and with 25% of the population living below the poverty line, this is a large amount of people.
As one of the leaders within India, The Dalai Lama, quite rightly puts: “change only takes places through action, not meditation and prayers alone.” For human rights to have any meaning, full participation powered by democracy is what is needed. However, India’s policies of human rights have not been ignored by the public of India. Websites have been created such as; The Better India, or The Alternative India. Both are online magazines focusing on positive stories of kindness and giving, building and inspiring people to do good collectively, in a community form, as well as generate new ideas on sustainable living and social change. These powerful modes of media and technology are fantastic forms in sharing the good of India. Like Indrajit Singh Khas for example, from The Better India, who created a machine which plants turmeric and ginger, implying the manual labor involved, aiding the process and increasing the harvest- benefiting the people as well as the land. Or the CRY project on the Alternative India website; helping with the 10.12 million children in India who are vulnerable to sex trafficking, homelessness, forced labor, drug abuse and crime, this project helps aid kids to return to school and study, allowing them to decide their own future.
This style of project and attitude of compassion to charity, is reminiscent of Mother Teresa’s work, her forgiveness and endless love: “little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things, is a great thing”. Although a generous attitude to adopt and embrace, there are many flaws within Mother Teresa’s faith some may argue, her pushiness to Christianity, and her attitude towards homosexuals. India has recently, in 2013, made homosexuality once again illegal in the country, censoring many people’s freedom, rights and values. Having homosexuality swing from illegal to legal then back to illegal again, makes lives difficult for those who have already formed homosexual relationships prior of 2013. How can homosexual members of the public be homosexual and then turn straight? This backward way of thinking highlights the injustices that the public have to face, as well as the inadequate treatment of dealing with certain human rights.
A leader whom is embracing of all manners of being: sexuality, religion, age and gender, is the Sikh Leader: Tara Singh. With 21,500,000 Sikhs in India, this leader has an incredibly large following. But no wonder when the foundations of the religion is based on the principle of equality of all humans, rejecting any discrimination on the basis of caste, greed and gender. One of the most influential and magnificent pieces of the Sikh religion is the Golden Temple, in Amritsar. With it having the largest amount of visitors at its Soup Kitchen in the world and with four entrances all with no door, this temple symbolizes compassion, humanity and equality like no other religion and for many Indians, is where their moral vales stem from. This attitude of “sharing is caring”, is an immediate reflection of this religion and encompasses every Indian within India, which is a positive and encouraging social aspect of humanity within India.
Another influential leader vital to who has laid the foundations of what India is today: Gandhi. Many Indians adopt Gandhi’s way of thinking in their every day life: “I love Gandhi, I work on his philosophy a lot”- Sanjay. His ideas of non violence and community shaped and transformed the nation to what India is now, he is the father of India. His face is on the local currency and in households, his way of thinking: calming and positive, is the way many deal with hardships that they face. Although India has accepted Gandhi’s way of thinking within the society which plays a vital role in maintaining the balance and harmony of the multi cultural society, his influence does not stem as far as India’s economy. Gandhi stood against economic exploitation and social dissemination, rather in favor of a simple life with essential items, but because of India’s rapid modernization, India has grown much bigger and faster than what Gandhi could have ever dreamed of.
As you can see, human rights in India is an incredibly sticky and sensitive situation. There are some aspects of India where members of the community have excelled in, creating a fantastic sense of community with so many differences- and it still works. However, there are also drawbacks to having such a large and diverse nation. With just a handful of incredibly moving and powerful leaders, you can see how they have influenced the nation and its philosophy of life, which is enlightening to see and be a part of. Let’s hope the western world and India both learn a little something from one another.