India has been a symbol of liberty and inclusiveness in the world. Its rich heritage and culture have been appreciated by millions. World’s largest democracy currently is one of the most vibrant economies and the youngest one too. At this juncture, though, we find that the fundamental right to critique establishments is being taken away by the current dispensation. Dr. B R Ambedkar in his speech on the eve of republic day (26th January 1950) had mentioned “we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social-economic life, we will have inequality”. It seems Dr. Ambedkar has been proven right in a sinister way, the politicians have shaken hands, the citizens are divided.
Economic Exclusion via Policy
Let us analyze different facets of inequality in the state of Gujarat where the hyped development model of Narendra Modi has been at play for more than a decade and a half. Policies aimed at the rich have hit the poor hard and across institutions.
Per a recent report, Gujarat tops the list of caste discrimination in colleges, accounting for almost 32.3% of the cases reported. At the school level around 1.47 Lac Anganwadi kids out 43 lac were found severely malnourished.
Recent data from Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook 2016 shows exponential increase in the wealth of the wealthy and their share in the Indian economy. India is one of the most unequal country with share of richest 1% in total wealth is 58.4%.
On contrary to above data a third of world’s malnourished children live in India, 31% of world’s stunted children live in India. In Global Hunger Index (GHI), India slipped from 83rd rank to 97th rank in 2016. Four countries (Nepal, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh) who are above India in the list; not one of them had 9% growth, not one of them is the 4th largest power of the world, not one of them is the 6th nuclear power on the planet, not one of them have had scientific technological human skills capability resource pool and yet they have done better. How did that happen?
The country which ranks 5th in dollar billionaires, ranks 130 in Human Development Index (HDI). How did we manage to achieve this?
Is vacuous growth the reality then? Statistics reflect the colossal gap between the rich and the poor. We must reject the politics of a government which leaves its annadata in peril, and lend favors to corporate. In 2016 Finance Ministry declared, Indian government has forgone Rs. 17.15 Lakh Crore revenue in the past 3 years due to tax concessions, incentives. The rich of this country have thus been provided a free ride at the expense of taxpayers. Per a report, top ten corporate houses of our country owe staggering amount of Rs. 7 Lakh Crores to Public Sector banks and financial institutions. On the contrary NCRB data says, “Suicides by farmers rose up 42% to 8,007 in 2015 among which 38.5% of the cases had reason Bankruptcy.
Per Employment-Unemployment Report 2015-16, 45% of Indian populace earns less than Rs. 10,000 per month. The government with its skewed economic policies is widening the rich and poor divide rather than bridging it.
Social Exclusion and increase in societal animosity
Narendra Modi led government at the center is one such entity which endorses worst form of inequality based on caste, religion, and income etc. through its ideological set up. Its fountainhead Rashtra Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is vigorously imposing its divisive venom of culture since pre-independence times. In recent times BJP-RSS nexus has been successful in polarizing common man on caste, religion card by using a mirage of development which left its people in ditch of suffering. Atrocities on dalits and muslims is on rise under Narendra Modi led BJP government.
Incident of Una in Gujarat was an organized act to terrorize the dalit community. An intentional communal upsurge was recently seen in a village named Vadawali where Muslims were terrorized. Day light murder of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer in Rajasthan, murder of two youth in Latehar district of Jharkhand by cow vigilantes show an organized trend of hate.
Why only BJP ruled state acknowledges atrocities on Dalits and Muslims? Because per holy Manu Smriti, it is legitimate to hate people of lowest strata of society.
Incident like scholar Rohit Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad Central University (HCU) or a recent incident in JNU in which dalit scholar J. Muthukrishnan ended his life with words “When equality is denied, everything is denied” clearly shows our failure to eliminate caste based discrimination. It symbolizes deep rooted hate in our culture altogether which denies basic right to dalit community, shattering ambitions of attaining humanity.
The need to reawaken the country is now
Bhagat Singh, wrote an article for newspaper Kirti under the pen name Vidhrohi in June 1928 named “Acchoot Ka Sawaal” in which he questioned “We are animatedly engaged in a debate whether or not the untouchables are entitled for a sacred thread? Are they allowed to read the Vedas? We whine that some foreign countries do not respect us and the British do not give us equal status. Do we have a right to bemoan all this? “
“It is not possible to break caste without annihilating the religious notions on which it, the caste system, is founded”, said Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
Dr. Ambedkar raised the slogan “Annihilate the caste”.
The unholy nexus of economic market and socio religious fundamentalists is derailing our vision for democracy, social fabric of unity irrespective of caste, creed, color, gender. This trend is uniquely sponsored by the state masked in Constitutional duties. We need to become an organized force to confront this cultural economic hegemony. As rightly put by an American ecologist Edward Abby, “Growth for sake of growth is ideology of cancer cells, the faster they grow, the sooner you are dead”. Recently Prof. Stephen Hawkins said, “the biggest danger to this world is the danger of inequality”. The biggest source of insecurity in this country is growing inequality. The sheer indifference we show, the justification of that inequality and even the celebration of it, which we have seen in the last 20 years is huge threat to our democratic stability and cohesiveness. It’s shameful and degenerative that a society must debate whether it is our duty to feed the hungry or not. In the 16th lok sabha out of 543 MPs, 449 are crorepatis. Basically, Indian parliament has become a “Club of Crorepatis”. In this situation, how can we expect the rich section of society to work for the welfare of people who are neck deep in inequality? Our political democracy has essence of One Man-One Vote, One Vote-One Value, until and unless it gets transformed into One Man-One Value, the commitment of improving it into a social democracy cannot be fulfilled. Set of contradictions would continue to rupture our democratic strength and togetherness. Simple practice of inter-caste marriage must be undertaken by us to challenge caste based prejudice, oppression enhancing social integration; we must abolish the practice to know the caste identity in daily life. Hope we stand to expose and oppose the divisive politics of BJP-RSS or else this hate and inequality will be the death of democracy and humanity.