A handful of rich have been thriving at the cost of the poor in India

  • Prakash Pohare

The definition of democracy established as a government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’, seems to have changed. Nowadays, democracy means a government run ‘for contractors, by contractors’. That is, the system called government has been redefined today.

It is eager to become a system of a handful of people. There is a dire need to ponder on ‘How to save the country from this change?’

For a moment, let us recall the time of Corona when a lot of gimmicks were being played. What was actually happening on the economic front in such an environment? Industries were shutting down. Many people were losing their jobs. Workers were literally leaving the cities with their feet covered in blood. All those troubled faces were ordinary people from among us.

On the other hand, in 2020, it was revealed that the wealth of more than 60 percent of the world’s billionaires increased significantly. This was happening at a time when economies around the world were going bankrupt. Nothing different was happening in India as well. While big industrialists like Ambani-Adani were getting rich, the figures showing that the income of common Indians was decreasing, came up. The Oxfam report presenting the reality of this economic disparity says that in 2020 the number of billionaires in India was 102.In 2022, this number reached 166. In 2020, the wealth of the country’s top 100 richest people was $ 313 billion. In 2021, it reached $775 billion and today this figure has increased further. On the other hand, 50 per cent of the common people in India today, own only 3 per cent of the wealth. India’s 1% rich possess 40% of the country’s wealth. The rich are getting richer by the day and the poor are getting poorer!

We are told that economic growth means moving from primary producer sector jobs to large manufacturing and service sector jobs. But, for this reason, two-thirds of India’s population, i.e. 700 to 800 million (i.e. 70 to 80 crores) people are pushed to the margins. Result? ...the horrendous suicides of thousands of original owner farmers or the displacement of sixty million (i.e. six crores) people from their own fields, forests and coasts by so-called development projects in the last decade!

The conversion of land and water for industry, infrastructure and cities, deprived the original inhabitants of the natural resources on which their livelihoods deeply depended. A vivid example of this is the ‘SamruddhiMahamargPariyojna’ in Maharashtra, which I call the ‘DurbuddhiMahamarg’ (Mindless Project)!

Many more such examples of inequality are before our eyes. In the last fifteen years, 1.25 to 1.5 lakh farmers have committed suicide to free themselves from debt and the stigma attached to it. According to a preliminary estimate, there are a total of 12 crore farmer account holders in the country. That is, out of every thousand account holders, one farmer has committed suicide. Despite this, there is no sensitivity in the VIP class of the country which thrives on the life of the general public. Whatever happens to the farmers, there is nothing left for this class to do except that we want the essential agricultural produce to be of good quality, available near residence and preferably cheap! While the government is also providing such facilities on one hand, it is pushing the original productive class into the depths of poverty on the other.

In the recent times, ‘The rich are worshiped everywhere’ by the rulers while the common toiling people are always neglected. According to a study based on data from 13 rich developed countries Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, UK, China, Russia and the US, some other important aspects also emerged.

The official number of VIPs in the UK is 84. There are 109 VIPs in France. There are 125 VIPs in Japan. There are 142 VIPs in Germany. The total number of VIPs in the United States is 252. The total number of VIPs in Russia is 312 and in China is 435. While, there is a total of 5,79,092 VIPs in India! Now imagine the mounting bills for their security, air fares, foreign travel, transport, free electricity, free water, subsidized high quality food-canteens and other perks. This will show how a handful of rich have been thriving at the cost of the poor in India.

People’s representatives, judiciary, bureaucracy and media are considered the four pillars of democracy. If you imagine these pillars, and think who is supporting them, it seems that they are not the pillars of democracy, but the pillars of the flamboyant corporate world sitting at its head! The people included in these pillars today are counted as ‘Very Special’ (VVIPs) and these people also have the same vision of ‘moving ahead with each other’s help and crushing the masses’. Among all these ‘systems’, the status of the non-VIP general public is clearly reduced to secondary status... i.e.‘Praja’ or ‘Raiyat’.

On the other hand, 22.89 crore people are poor in India today. They are livingbelow the poverty line in such a pathetic condition that they neither has an official house to live in nor do they get two-square meals a day.

The economy of the government rests on the lives of the poor because these people pay six times more tax than the rich. The contribution of rich people is only 10 percent. Through GST, 64% money is received from the poor, while only 4% money is received from the rich. At the same time, the government collects 33 percent of GST from the middle class. This means that the government’s economic calculations are based on the money of the poor and the middle class but only a few rich people reap all its benefits. It is clearly visible that it is the government’s policy to supplement the rich.

During the time of Corona, the central government gave free food to the poor. In reality, it is the responsibility of the government to do so. The government cannot shy away from doing this, but the central government created a lot of hue-and-cry about this supply of free grain; keeping the elections in mind. But the farmers upon whose lives the government runs this scheme, are dying! On the other hand, in 2019, the central government reduced the corporate tax rate from 30 percent to 22 percent and reduced the tax to 15 percent by adding section 115BAB for certain preferred companies. At that time, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called this decision historic by tweeting about it. But this decision caused a loss of Rs. 4.5 lakh crores to the government’s revenue. During the year 2020-2021, the government has distributed tax concessions to the companies in the corporate sector. For this reason, many economists had also targeted the government. During this period, the profits of about 95 companies in the food and energy sector have increased significantly. On the other hand, only 1 dollar i.e. 80 rupees was going into the pockets of the common man, while 170 million dollars were being added to the pockets of the rich. The climax is that the Modi government played a complementary role to the big businessmen and waived off their loans worth Rs. 11 Lakh Crores!

There is now a huge gap between rural-urban people in India. Poverty rate has increased in rural areas. Between 2018 and 2020, 10,000 people committed suicide due to unemployment and about 16,000 people committed suicide due to poverty. India ranks 107th out of 121 countries in the World Hunger Index. While on one hand this is the reality, on the other hand we are dreaming of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2026-27!

The bitter truth is that since coming to power, the present central government has always taken into account the interests of big industrialists. Inflated GDP figures are not the measure of development, but if one per cent of the budget is brought and spent on popular schemes, the voters on the ground are happy. The contribution of a handful of rich in the economy is nothing as compared to that of crores of poor. The government should practise this. In fact, many economists of the country have said that if tax is imposed on these billionaires of the country, then many problems will be solved. Dr. Raghuram Rajan was saying the same thing when he was the Governor of the Reserve Bank. Eventually, he had to step down. But it seems that today the government has also forgotten that there is an economist like Raghuram Rajan who thinks about the country!

Today, I want to talk about another topic - That is nationalism. Today, there are frenetic differences regarding nationalism. In the name of Nationalism, some who raise important issues are being charged with various allegations, while the patriotism of some is being questioned. Whereas, a handful are being fed on the lives of the common people, the common man himself is actually dying! How will you shroud this bitter truth?

(The author is the Editor of Marathi daily ‘Deshonnati’, Hindi daily ‘Rashtra Prakash’ and weekly ‘Krishakonnati’ can be contacted on 9822593921 )