India’s Stark Disparity
Inequality in asset distribution has created two Indias. According to All India Debt & Investment Survey, 2019 conducted by the National Sample Survey, which has been published recently, the richest 10 per cent of Indians own over half of the country’s physical and financial assets, while the bottom 50 per cent own less than 10 per cent of the assets. This alarming report clearly shows that the nation has failed in its endeavour to uplift the poor despite various promises and programmes over the years. Moreover, disparity acts as a stumbling block in the country’s march towards becoming a developed nation from a developing nation. An analysis of the survey report points to the fact that until and unless the prevailing inequality is removed, India will not be able to make desired progress in its efforts to become one of the top nations of the world.
It is a fact that since Independence various measures have been taken to bring the bottom half of the population at par with the rest of the population. But those steps did not yield the desired results as per the said survey. As a result, the gap between the rich and the poor increased manifold during the seven decades of India’s Independence. Wealth and power have become concentrated in the hands of a few people in a country of nearly 140 crore people. Neither the Nehruvian policy, nor the new economic policy introduced by former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in the early nineties substantially helped in bridging the gap. Now the time has come to take effective steps to arrest this ever increasing divide.
The divide poses a great danger to society as out of 274.6 lakh crore assets in rural areas, 139.6 lakh crore is in the hands of the richest 10 per cent people living in rural areas. Whilst studying the figures, it should not be forgotten that two-thirds of the Indian population live in rural areas and the majority of the population there are affected by this disparity. The picture is no different in urban areas. In Delhi, 80.8 per cent of assets are in the hands of the top 10 per cent of the richest and the bottom 50 per cent has just 2.1 per cent of the assets. The divide has created a situation wherein a handful of persons are enjoying all the world’s luxuries, whilst majority of the population are deprived of basic amenities such as health, education and shelter.
In such a situation, steps should be taken to erase the divide as early as possible. On its part, the government should impose higher taxes on India’s richest 10 per cent and utilise the tax revenue to initiate a practical and effective mechanism/programme to improve the standard of living for all of India’s citizens and not just a select few. There is no issue with an individual amassing wealth, but at the same time concrete steps should be taken to prevent the wealth from reaching only a handful of people. During the colonial era India witnessed such a situation. To make rulers wealthy, poor Indians had to starve. We should not allow those horrific days to return, we must fulfil the promise of Equality made in our Constitution.