The Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy (CSSEIP) held a special lecture on “Social Exclusion & Discrimination: Issues and Challenges” by Prof Vani K Barooah, Emeritus professor of Applied Economics, School of Public Policy, Economics & Law, University of Ulser, United Kingdom. The lecture was delivered at the New Seminar Hall, School of Social Sciences on August 25.
Prof Vani, at the outset, asserted the fact that social exclusion and discrimination was a universal issue and not just prevalent in India. He gave instances of the North Africans feeling isolated in France and African Americans in USA facing such situations. He also stated that social exclusion is fine in its own right except when it deprives a person of something. He cited the example of the ‘two tumbler system in Tamil Nadu’ where Dalits and Non Dalits use separate glasses. It is not like Dalits don’t have access to water but intentionally excluding and alienating them is the problem. He explained that social exclusion and discrimination hurts the dignity and psychological well being of a person which is more important than any sort of materialistic matter.
He went on to talk about the factors that are believed to make a person successful. According to most people, success and failure tend to depend on individual qualities such as hard work, perseverance and intelligence but recent research studies highlight that an important aspect that determines a person’s success is also their parents’ qualities. The outcome depends on the person’s upbringing and opportunities received. Prof Vani argued that the joint entrance exam system in India was a mechanistic view. It measured everyone’s capabilities using the same yardstick. He believes that the grading system should be adjusted in a manner that takes into account a person’s background and situation.
Another major concern that Prof Vani pointed out was that people tend to engage in emotional reasoning that almost always turns into prejudice. He told that it has become a common feature in India and the duty of social scientists is to eliminate such prejudices from the society. He emphasized on doing good work, raising interesting questions and then answering those questions objectively, dispassionately and disinterestedly. He hoped that social scientists would appreciate problems in their entirety and understand the complexities in those problems. He advised students to not just do good research but to make sure it gets adopted as policies.
The talk was followed by an engaging question and answer session.
-Shaima Mansoor, Department of Communication