Social empowerment refers to the process of building institutional mechanism for capacity building and integration of the marginalized sections of the society. It is a multidimensional process aiming at the overall development and the inclusion of such sections in the mainstream society. It often addresses members of groups who are excluded from decision-making process because of social discrimination. For example discrimination based on disability, race, ethnicity, caste, religion or gender etc.
Traditional Indian society was characterized by the most extreme and pervasive forms of inequality and their marks are readily visible in contemporary India. At the same time, we now have a constitution that has the most comprehensive guarantees of equality. Andre Beteille argues that this contradiction between ideal and practice is very striking features of our social and polit life, in which the rhetoric of equality co-exists with the practice of inequality in both private and public. The ideology of hierarchy justifies the claims of superiority and rationalizes resignation to inferior status. Thus, the graded inequalities of castes provided differential access to life chances.
The social hierarchy of the Indian society operating through centuries and millennia imposed a number of socio-economic disabilities on the castes belonging to the Shudra varna. The result of these cumulative inequalities and disabilities was the social, educational and economic backwardness of today’s scheduled castes and other backward classes. Marc Galanter in his landmark work efforts to secure equality by means of preferential treatment must be seen in its constitutional context