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There Cannot Be Two Indias: The Stark Contradiction And The Widening Gap

Posted on October 12, 2011 in Society

By Subhankar Paul:

Expressing serious concern over the growing instances of starvation deaths in the country, a few days back the Supreme Court had said there cannot be “two Indias” divided between the elite and the poor. “You can’t have two Indias. What is this stark contradiction in our whole approach in eradication of malnutrition? You say you are a powerful country but at the same time, starvation deaths are taking place in various parts of the country. It (malnutrition) must be totally eliminated and eradicated,” the bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma, told additional solicitor General Mohan Parasaran.

On one hand we have people like the Mittals, the Ambanis and the Birlas who make it to the list of the richest people in the world in World famous magazines like Forbes and Fortune; in fact India, presently with exactly 55 “dollar-billionaires” (individuals with a total net worth of one billion dollars and above), accounts for roughly 4.5% of the global total of 1210 billionaires across the six continents. And on the other hand, according to a 2005 World Bank estimate, 41.6% of the total Indian population falls below the international poverty line of US$ 1.25 a day. It’s very truly said that India is a land of diversity. As we travel across the country, we come across different people with different beliefs, traditions, languages etc. This unity in diversity is talked about and held in high esteem all around the globe. But, we Indians would certainly be not proud of this pecuniary diversity at all. As journalist and the Rural Affairs editor for The Hindu, P Sainath describes in his reports on the rural economy in India, the level of inequality has risen to extraordinary levels; when at the same time, hunger in India has reached its highest level in decades. He also points out that rural economies across India have collapsed, or are on the verge of collapse due to the neo-liberal policies of the government of India since the 1990s. If the country has to uplift itself from the rank of developing country to a developed one, the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor has to be bridged.

The reasons for this widespread poverty (India is estimated to have a one- third of the world’s poor) might be construed as:

  • India’s faulty economic policy: – The complicated bureaucracy often led to absurd restrictions — a number of agencies had to be satisfied before a firm could be granted a license to produce and the state would decide what was produced, how much, at what price and what sources of capital were used. This was a result of India’s decision to have a planned economy, where all aspects of the economy are controlled by the state and licenses were given to a select few. Corruption flourished under this system.
  • Over-reliance on agriculture: – There is a surplus of labour in agriculture. Farmers are a large vote bank and use their votes to resist reallocation of land for higher-income industrial projects. While services and industry have grown at double digit figures, agriculture growth rate has dropped from 4.8% to 2%.
  • Liberalization policies: – Government policies encouraging farmers to switch to cash crops, in place of traditional food crops, has resulted in an extraordinary increase in farm input costs, while market forces determined the price of the cash crop.
  • Caste system: – Caste system is widespread in rural areas, and continues to segregate Dalits and other backward classes.

It’s easy to discuss problems but it is quite difficult to come up with solutions, especially on such an issue which is haunting us forever. But, it is high time to take up this problem very seriously, just as issues like population explosion, corruption etc. The good of India would not be accomplished only by the good of a few individuals. So, it is imperative for the rich Indians to lend a helping hand to the Government to end this social menace. The corporate houses in India should go out of their way to do their Corporate Social Responsibilities. Unemployment is the basic cause of poverty. Government policies like the “100 days work”, “Swarojgar Yojana” have helped to provide alternate means of employment to people. The Government should be prudent and far-sighted when deciding policies on grave matters like work security, food security etc. Thus, we would require more educated and qualified people to represent us in the legislature. Politics is never a career option for the brighter students. Well, the youth has to come forward and take responsibility of driving the country forward instead of blaming the Government and its policies.

One silver lining is that modern technologies are in many ways bridging this gap. Cellular phones and internet are now available even in remote areas without electricity or telephones. Google returns you the same result whether you are rich or poor. The engineers and other students enrolled in technical studies should motivate themselves and engage themselves to invent and promote new technologies. India is our motherland and the onus is us to make it a better place to live in, free from poverty, hunger, corruption and all other social evils.