India and inequality
A just-released Oxfam report on poverty and inequality has stated only the obvious – that the rich in India are becoming richer even in the Covid times and the poor poorer. The London-based charity that surveyed the inequality scene across the globe has said India’s governance structure promotes accumulation of wealth by a few, with little regard to the plight of the poor. It has also noted that liberal financial support and huge tax cuts were extended to the corporates and big business (“tranches”) in the guise of helping them to weather the pandemic situation, while the poor and the middle class are made to cough up more to the exchequer by way of indirect taxes. India’s richest 98 billionaires have as much wealth as the poorest 55.5 crore people mostly in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) segment, the Oxfam report has stated.
In all fairness, central and state governments in recent years have been generous in helping the poor with a series of doles, like the food security programme launched by the UPA-II, the Ayushman Bharat and Jan Dhan subsidized health care schemes and the pensions for farmers and street vendors by the Modi government, the series of free housing schemes by the Centre and states, and even unemployment allowance to the youth. These have all helped ease the life of India’s large army of poor – and have also turned them lazy. A Chinese proverb has this to say: “Give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. You teach him to fish and he will feed himself and his family for a lifetime.”
Leadership is all about having a vision for the future and taking the right steps forward. By giving doles, precious money earned by a government is handed down to the people with no benefit to the national economy. If the productive sectors are activated and every individual made to contribute his/her mite to the nation’s growth, the collective release of energy from a 1.35 billion population can work wonders for a nation. China is precisely doing this. India is today the land of freebies because the politician who runs the government is having a single-minded obsession – to please all and win the next elections so that he can warm his chair for more years. Pressure groups get the first hearing, be it businessmen or organised employee unions, because men with feet of clay at the helm of affairs do not have the courage to confront situations or control vested interests.