India’s Growing Economic Divide
According to the latest survey by Oxfam the wealth gap between the top one percent and the rest 99 % has increased in the last two years. According to their estimates the top1% of the Indian economy is now in possession of more than 73% of the wealth. This is similar to the global trends as the survey also indicates a rise in the number of billionaires to 2,043. The wealth of this group has increased by $762 billion in the last 12 months and most of this increase has been a product of inheritance, monopoly and cronyism. The same report indicated that the wealth of the bottom 50% of the population increased by only 1%. According to NishaAgrawal the Oxfam India CEO “the billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a falling economic system. Those working hard, growing food for the country, building infrastructure, working in the 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”.
The results of this survey present an alarming picture as these trends are reflective of the main contentions that many have had with the modern economic system. This gap between the privileged and the underprivileged is moreover a serious roadblock to the realisation of basic human rights and would provide a very fertile circumstance for instability and maybe even mass mobilisation similar to the ones seen in Latin America in the 1980s. This is what a common understanding would lead us to, but the present political situation would disapprove this understanding.
This rise of unequal wealth distribution has also peculiarly coincided with the rise of the global right which goes against the basic understanding of the pre-existing literature on economic inequality. This dissonance between the pre-existing theories and the present situation may be attributed to various reasons. First,is the evolved nature of the global right which has, while adopting neo-liberal policies, demanded trade restrictions and favourable policies. The right and the far right in the 21st century have found an eternal ally with the top 1% of this global population ( a list of contributors to the republican campaign in the United states would prove this beyond any doubt) and hence inward looking monopolistic policies have been backed by the wealthy 1%. Secondly, the rise of national pride and patriotism and xenophobia in various countries has allowed the right to capture a majoritarian vote bank turning the democratic structures against long cherished democratic values.
Hence the income gap between the top 1% and the bottom 50% is not only a question related to the economy but rather a political and social one. In fact any further analysis of this data would show that not only is the income distribution lopsided but it is also reflective of the gap betweenmarginalised communities and dominant communities. Therefore in the Indian context it is important to study the number of individuals from marginalised castes and tribes in the top 1% and analyse further into causes of immense income disparity currently present and growing in India.