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.”
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.”
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.
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-
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.