People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 19, 2006
“Shining India” has reasons to cheer. 23
Indians figure in the Forbes’ global list of 793 billionaires this
year! An Indian business daily
survey, categorising billionaires in Indian rupees, unlike the Forbes’
which categorises them in US dollars, has shown that the number increased from
71 to 311 billionaires during the course
of the last year. They have a
net worth of Rs 364,000 crores. At
an 8 per cent rate of interest, they would be earning Rs 29,000 crore per annum,
or, Rs 80 crore a day! Our concern
is not that few people have made it to such a list. In fact, may their tribe
increase. Our concern is regarding how this has happened.
Economic Times, reporting
this news with a billion cheers states “immiserising growth is plunder but
what goes on now is participatory growth that embraces everyone”. (March
13, 2006) Really? Let us
examine this contention.
suicides and starvation deaths continue to stalk our rural areas. As the news of
India’s billionaires broke out, so did the news of a farmer’s family
committing suicide in Andhra Pradesh because the whole cotton crop that they
produced was not sufficient in value terms to pay back the usurious moneylender.
While this news figured in the local Telugu press, The Economic Times
did not even bother to report.
1993-94 and 2003-04, the per capita expenditure of the bottom 80 per cent of
India’s rural population declined in real terms, according to the National
Sample Survey (NSS). On the other
hand, the average per capita income in the country grew around 4 per cent
annually. Per capita expenditures declining for 80 per cent of the rural people
with an average increase of 4 per cent for the country as a whole only means
that income inequalities have drastically widened. As opposed to the “Shining
India”, the living conditions in “Real India” which embraces the
overwhelming majority of our population, appear to have drastically
deteriorated. The per capita
availability (not consumption) of foodgrains in the country has come down to
around 152 kilograms per head. This
is a figure which is close to what it used to be during the days of the Bengal
famine in 1940s, close to the end of the Second World War.
Given this huge income inequalities, the per capita availability figures
mask the reality that the poor are consuming much less today than what they
were, even a decade earlier.
reality must be seen in conjunction with the miserable growth of unemployment in
the country. This year’s Economic
Survey shows that between 1993-94 and 2004, the unemployment rate for males
in rural India increased from 5.6 per cent to 9 per cent and 6.7 per cent to 8.1
per cent in urban India. The unemployment figures, on the basis of current daily
status of employment, were much higher than these figures implying a high degree
of uncertainty of employment. Thus,
with per capita expenditures declining, implying declines in per capita
consumption, and accompanied by growing unemployment, is, surely, an expression
of immiserisation of the vast majority of the Indian people.
Thus, what is happening in the country is alarming to say the least.
The Economic Times may well cheer the billionaires but what it
says is absolutely true. “Immiserising
growth is plunder”. The
contention that these billionaires had been thrown up by a process of
“participatory growth that embraces everyone” is an illusion that is
assiduously created by the champions of “Shining India” at the expense of
the “Real India”.
this is true is established by another consideration.
During the last four years, there has been a substantial increase in the
gross tax revenues of the government. How has this happened?
Consider this year’s budget for the explanation. It is expected that
the gross tax revenues would grow by over Rs 72,000 crore, i.e., a 19.5 per cent
increase over a 21.4 per cent increase last year.
Additional resource mobilisation through taxes is targeted at only Rs
6,000 crore. Tax arrear collections
are pegged at only Rs 10,000 crore. Over
Rs 56,000 crore is, thus, to come to the government without any effort at
additional tax mobilisation. It
would be naïve to think that this is happening due to better tax collection
administration. But, then why is this happening?
whopping increases in tax revenues is happening precisely because of the sharp
growing of inequalities that we have discussed above.
Thus, because inequalities have increased, the pre tax surpluses for the
“Shining India” have risen sharply, and thus, more tax revenues are
literally falling into the lap of the government.
This, however, is happening at the expense of the vast majority of the
people in “Real India”. Thus, what is going on in India is an intense
process of immiserisation of the
vast majority of our people. What
we are witnessing today is growth at the expense of equity.
This is no growth that will eventually lead to equality.
This growth of billionaires is not due to what The Economic Times
editorial states, “The very process that makes billionaires out of the more
enterprising also throws open windows that bring new light and cheer into lives
at the other end of the social ladder”.
is happening is the exact opposite. The
throwing up of the billionaires is the result of enlarging the size and
deepening the misery of the “other end of the social ladder”.
is precisely this disconnect between the “Shining India” and the “Real
India” that led, in the first place, to the rejection of the BJP-led NDA in
2004 general elections. It is precisely this disconnect that has roused the
hopes in the people that the
incumbent UPA government will take steps to ameliorate the situation of “Real
India”. The people are hoping to get relief urgently. If the UPA
government ignores this hope, then it shall do so at its own peril.