India is a country of pretty obvious inequalities. It accounts for the largest number of people living below the poverty line – but at the same time, it also has the fourth highest number of billionaires in the world. This bizarre dichotomy manifests itself when we see people struggling to afford three square meals a day, while the richest of Indians buy ridiculously expensive things.
In fact, according to a study by rights group Oxfam, the inequality is so bad that 57 Indian billionaires own 70% of the nation’s wealth! As a signatory to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, it is the responsibility of the Indian government to not only address this alarming gap, but also do something to bridge it. Because the truth is, the gap is too wide for India to realistically meet its development goals.
Don’t believe us? Have a look at these 10 ridiculously expensive things that the top 1% of Indians can easily afford, but which millions in the country can’t even dream of:
What do you get when you take a brand known for elite and expensive products and put diamonds on it? Something priced at £10 million or a ridiculous ₹83 crores! “Ahahahaha,” thinks the average Indian.
Hey, do you like donuts and also want to feel rich while eating one? Chuck the ol’ sugary donuts and why not add gold flakes to yours? Yes, actual legit gold flakes. And, just a note – each donut costs $100 (over ₹6,000)!
Rich people gotta feel rich while doing anything, even when it’s something as basic as brushing teeth. Clocking in at a cool $4000, it’s not money till you got titanium in your teeth. While the rest of us ordinary Indians are here busy, plugging ordinary stuff like Colgate – or, more probably, neem ka dantun.
Most of us would settle for good ol’ cotton but Dattatray Phuge, an Indian businessman, made headlines when he ordered a shirt made of pure gold for himself. This earned him the nickname the ‘gold man’ of Pune. And he isn’t the only one either. Maharashtra’s businessman-politician Pankaj Parekh became the second person in India to own a gold shirt.
At a time when almost every sky-rise in India seems to be surrounded by slums, very few people can think of buying houses outside India, let alone in premier locations. Not that this is a concern for the super-rich of course – such as when Aamir Khan spent ₹75 crore to buy an apartment for his wife, Kiran Rao. Love is worth more than money, sure – but wow!
Not many people in India have even seen a yacht up close – I certainly haven’t. The first thing most people think of when they hear ‘yacht’ is ‘a big boat that’s too expensive for me’. And you know what? They’re totally right. Case in point: Vijay Mallya’s yacht, the ‘Indian Empress’, which cost a ridiculous $150 million. Good for running away from all the debt, I suppose.
It’s boring, since it’s something many rich persons have. And yet, it’s not something most of us can even think of owning. From Mallya to the Ambanis to half the Bollywood superstars out there, a private plane is a must. At the same time, the rest of the country is either struggling to get the cheapest flight tickets or has probably never been on a plane at all.
People usually dream of being cricketers – but owning your own cricket team? Yeah, way out of most people’s leagues. The Mumbai Indians’ market value is estimated to be more than $50 million, and is owned by none other than Mukesh Ambani. Obviously.
Everyone loves to travel, but rich people like to travel to some wild locations. Most of us are grateful if we get away to a hill station for a weekend – but that’s just us. Enter Virgin Galactic, which is working on making commercial space travel a thing. It won’t probably be affordable for most of humanity, though – because each ticket costs $200,000. But hey, at least you’ll miss the crowd in space!
What does it take to own the most expensive private residential building in the world? Oodles of money, of course. Most families in India would probably save for years before managing to buy their own residence, but not Mukesh Ambani (again, obviously). Antilla has 27 floors and needs a staff of 600 to maintain it – and a single family resides in it.
Ironically, Antilla is located in Mumbai, which is also home to Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world. More than being a symbol of ‘development’, it should be regarded as a symbol of inequality that’s festering modern Indian society.
So, the big question: Why should you care? Because rising inequality affects the development of the country you live in, as a whole. It is a concern so big that leaders around the world have made it a point in their campaign promises – and for good reason. According to The Economist, inequality can “impair growth if those with low incomes suffer poor health and low productivity as a result” as well as “threaten public confidence in growth-boosting policies like free trade.”
When nearly 200 million people in India are malnourished and 96% of the adult population has wealth ‘below $10,000 (₹ 6.84 lakhs)’, the government has a responsibility to work towards eradicating all forms of inequality, especially since it is one of India’s most crucial problems.
If India aims to meet its sustainable development goals (SDG) by 2030, the government needs to start working and put forth systems to ensure that people are protected from the growing inequality. This includes social protection systems for those who are especially vulnerable – such as people with disabilities, the elderly and children.
And we need to hold the government accountable until it does this. That starts now.