Has India Become Tolerant To Skyrocketing Economic Inequality Under The Modi Govt?

India, a seven-decade-old independent country has acknowledged a roller coaster ride in the social, political and economical sphere. In the year 1991, the biggest economic gamble was played in nation’s history by opening doors of Indian economy for LPG: Liberalization-Privatization-Globalization under the leadership of Indian National Congress with a promise to reform India at its best. Neoliberalism and market regulation was introduced with claims that growth would ‘trickle down’ to reach the last standing man but, the condition of the poor has been progressively deteriorating.

Let us look at a few achievements which clear the picture of economic inequality within Indian democracy – India has the fourth highest number of billionaires but it ranks 130th position in Human Development Index (HDI) out of 188 countries; India is the third strongest economy in the world but it stands in 100th position on Global Hunger Index (GHI) out of 119 countries; ₹3 lakh is used to rehabilitate a manual scavenger. And if the number of safai karamcharis is estimated for rehabilitation it would be around 3 lakh with an expenditure of ₹9,000 crore eliminating world’s most insane occupation but this ₹9,000 crore was given to Vijay Mallya instead of safai karamcharis.

As veteran journalist P. Sainath said during the 13th Brajamohan Sarma Memorial Lecture, “As per NSS data, the income of a farming family from all sources is on an average Rs 6,426 per month, which is Rs 1,300 per capita income and the income of the main breadwinner in 75% of rural families is Rs 5,000 or less per month. On the other hand, the percentage of crorepati MPs has gone up to 82 currently, from 32% in 2004, as per their self-declaration of wealth in affidavits. Thus, the biggest growth sector in India today is the inequality sector.”

Deepening Economic Inequality Under Modi Government

In more than two-and-a-half decades, inequality in India has grown faster than any other country. But this painful saga does not stop here. Parallel to INC’s economic reform, BJP assumed power at the center in 1998 and followed the same path of neoliberal policies. It came back to power in 2014 with the slogan of Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas but has marked the worst bleeding period of the hardworking downtrodden population of India with a golden period for its billionaires.

Here are some examples which prove that policies of Modi government have single-handedly favoured the ultra-rich of this nation.

In 2016, according to Credit Suisse report, the richest 1% of Indians owned 58.4% of nation’s wealth.

The report said, “India’s wealth increased by $2.284 trillion between 2000 and 2015. Of this rise, the richest 1% has hogged 61%, while the top 10% bagged 81%. The other 90% got the leftovers. The share of India’s richest 1% is far ahead than that of top 1% of the US, who own a mere 37.3% of the total US wealth. But India’s finest still have a long way to go before they match Russia, where the top 1% own a stupendous 70.3% of the country’s wealth.”

These figures were followed by a study by French economist Thomas Piketty with Lucan Chancel, professor of economics at the Paris School of Economics who came up with a paper titled, “Indian income inequality, 1922-2015 From British Raj to Billionaire Raj” where they argued, income inequality in India was at its highest level since 1922.

The staggering figure of income disparity under Modi government rose up in the following year when Oxfam released a report saying, “73% of the wealth generated last year went to the richest 1%, while 67 crore Indians who comprise the poorest half of the population saw 1% increase in their wealth. India added 17 new billionaires between 2016-17, raising the number to 101 billionaires. Indian billionaires’ wealth increased by INR 4891 billion —from INR 15,778 billion to over INR 20,676 billion. Nisha Agrawal, CEO of Oxfam India said: “It is alarming that the benefits of economic growth in India continue to concentrate in fewer hands. The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system. Those working hard, growing food for the country, building infrastructure, working in factories are struggling to fund their child’s education, buy medicines for family members and manage two meals a day. The growing divide undermines democracy and promotes corruption and cronyism.”

Nurturing The Ultra Rich

Shameless defence of country’s corporates has remained priority for this government. The government needs to bail out large corporate borrowers at times in a capitalist system though it may lead to charges of cronyism said, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian of Modi government. In 2014, within two months of the BJP government at the center, the RBI introduced a scheme called 5/25. This scheme allowed banks to refinance and restructure the bad loans of many of the big corporates. The payment period for these bad loans has been extended to 25 years from original maturities of 10 years or so.  The direct beneficiaries of this new scheme are Gautam Adani, Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani. Congress regime is definitely responsible for NPA crisis but instead of breaking the streak of illegitimate favour to the corporates, PM Modi and his Finance continued to give a helping hand to their favourite rich lobby intentionally not allowing repayment of the loan taken by them. For example – Vijay Mallya defrauded a public sector bank with ₹9,000 crore; Gautam Adani owes a debt of ₹72,000 crore. During the Modi regime there has been a huge fall in the ‘bad loan’ collection owed by corporates to banks. RBI report according to NDTV says, “In 2015-16, the second year of the present Modi government and the last year for which data is available, gross NPA nearly doubled to 7.5%.” At least 10 corporate borrowings were written off. SBI alone waived off ₹7,000 crore owed by 63 big capitalist defaulters.

Source: DNA

In reply to an RTI filed by economist Prasenjit Bose, RBI admitted, “There were 9193 cases of Loans Frauds in the last 4 years (April 2014 to March 2018), involving an amount of Rs. 77521 crore. In the previous five years (April 2009 to March 2014) there were 10,652 cases involving Rs. 22,441 crore. While the number of loan fraud cases in the 4 years of the Modi Govt. is already close to the number under the UPA-II Govt., the amount involved has gone up by ₹55000 crore.”

The questions we the people of India want to ask this government of rich should be-

  1. Why are public sector banks waiving borrowings of big corporate houses? Is law different common man and these rich people?
  2. Why does the government prioritize subsidizing corporates through every tax concessions?
  3. Why was a scheme of refinancing the loan brought just to benefit Adani-Ambani?
  4. Why did the Narendra Modi government did not take historical loot legacy of Bank fraud cases seriously?

Created by Saurav Kumar

Do you feel the Modi government's policies have lowered down the economic inequality?

Politics of Modi government was very clear since the first day of assuming power – keep Indian democracy for namesake, serve the ultra-rich with massive tax concessions, by writing off their loans, by acting leniently against bank fraud. The foundations of BJP’s politics is inequality of every kind – social, political and economic. In the words of India’s former finance minister and former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, “The prime minister claims that he has seen poverty from close quarters. His finance minister is working over-time to make sure that all Indians also see it from equally close quarters.”

The spontaneous tendency of crony capitalism under Modi government is to produce wealth at one pole and poverty at another. Politics of Loot and Phoot (divide and rule) loaded with populism remains the bottom line of this government but the fact that colossal economic inequality seems to catch no attention of our countrymen remains a bigger concern.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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