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Is India actually developing?

Written by: Hafiz Gouran - 1st year student of Gujarat National Law University
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“I used to think I was poor. Then they told me I wasn’t poor, I was needy. Then they told me it was self-defeating to think of myself as needy. I was deprived. (Oh not deprived but rather underprivileged.) Then they told me that underprivileged was overused. I was disadvantaged. I still don’t have a dime. But I have a great vocabulary.” - Jules Feiffer

Who is developing?-
Sensex has touched the 20,000 mark within a short period of time. The bulls are roaring on Dalal Street. Traders are celebrating it. The soaring Sensex has become a symbol of India's growing economy. But what does it indicate — that India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world? Indeed, everyone should be happy that India is doing well and receiving huge inflows of foreign exchange.

This is becoming the breaking news of the media and it is shown in such a way that India is developing very fast. All magazines, newspapers and TV channels are representing this rise with the development of the country. But there is a point that is Sensex or any other stock market indices should be taken as criteria of development? If is it so then why people are not smiling all that much? The truth is that Sensex reaching great heights and high industrial growth has little meaning for the common man. It is not benefiting the common Indian because when it is showing up as higher profits for the corporate sector, it translates to higher salaries and bigger perks for top executives. Thus it is not benefiting the common or poor India.

Why is the rise in Sensex not affecting the fortunes of all? This is because only a few million people are investing in the equity (shares) of companies. Indians invested only 6.2 per cent of their total savings in equity-related instruments in 2007 and equity and mutual funds accounted for only 1.2 per cent of the GDP in 2007.[1] So rising Sensex is benefiting to only few people that have invested in it. This seems to be the by-product of the Global Economy, benefiting only the upper classes and elites while the poor get poorer.

Government policies are also seems to be concentrate on the matters of big industries. Government also shows indices like Sensex and Nifty as criteria of the progress of the country. Earlier the slogan of political parties was “poverty eradication” but now days they talk about Forex, Sensex and economic buoyancy. The government says that purchasing power capacity of people is increased. But we should not see the purchasing power of the people who buy luxurious items like car, T.V. etc. We should see the point that prices of wheat, rice, edible oil and pulses have risen and poor people are not able to buy this. Prosperous India has not yet provided sufficient social infrastructure to make the country less brutal for those at the bottom. India is a democratic country. Whether that democracy is a democracy wherein a small portion of people is being benefited and where there is poverty, they are not getting benefited?

Government’s point

According to Gandhiji we want independence for effecting change in the system. I think that we have not succeeded in that goal. Sensex, Forex, growth rate, saving and investment are increasing but inequality has also been increasing. Inequality always creates dissatisfaction. We must think about poorest of the poor people and not about rich people. Your policy should be guided for poor people. This government is running by great economists and these led to the situation where common people cannot buy vegetables.

Government shows great affection towards the big industrialists. They provide them with each and every requirement whether in terms of money, resources or with land. But both government and private sector are not performing their civil duty. Charity, civic duty and pressure on both the state and the private sector to sustain anti-poverty programmes are rare. Our politicians are seriously concerned when their interests are at stake (the Sensex being one of them) but they hardly care for the millions who go hungry. Hunger and poverty will not be eliminated as long as they form the basis of vote-bank politics.[2]

Poverty in India is present from a long time, no matter which government comes to power. Seat sharing is become the most important work of the parties. Even after 40 years of garibi hatao campaign launched by Indira Gandhi we are still lagging behind Ethiopia in hunger eradication. With the economic buoyancy in industrial sector the investment is increased in this sector. But we need more investment in social sector to increase the status of poor. In India 26% i.e. 260 million people are below the “official” poverty line. In comparison to China, they have only 6 million people who can be termed as poor.

Agriculture sector

India’s most of the population is engaged in the agriculture sector. This sector is also suffering from many obstacles. Farmer is the biggest producer and farmer is the biggest consumer. Farmer is getting poorer day-by-day. Farmers are commuting suicides. Till the farmers do not get right prices for their produce, they will not get benefited directly. [3]Agriculture, too, needs investment and farmers require credit to remain viable. But today most farmers remain poor without having adequate access to credit and have to migrate from farms to towns in search of work, as productivity and output are low and the size of farms small. Most farmers do not even own the land they are tilling. And the farmers who have their farms to cultivate are forcing to give their land to Special Economic Zones (SEZ). India is trying to attract foreign investment to spur its economy and help develop its largely backward infrastructure. In part, it has chosen to do this by setting up Special Economic Zones, where companies get tax breaks to open businesses and factories. But critics say farmers are often forced from their land or cheated of its value when it is acquired for these projects.

On 29th October 2007, 27,000 landless people were gathered to march to Parliament and to protest against government. "Day-by-day the Sensex goes up but the common people get nothing from this," said Anil Gupta, a march organizer, referring to the Bombay Stock Exchange's benchmark index. "People here are asking only for the basics. There is no greed. They don't want clothes or electricity, just land so they can feed themselves," he said. ‘’In the recent years of economic liberalization, the programme of land distribution among the landless has been badly neglected while hundreds of thousands of acres that belonged to small peasants have been taken away for industries, mining, dams and others projects. Their already meager share of the land is diminishing. Non-violent struggle for protecting the land rights of the poor cannot be delayed any further,’’ said P.V. Rajagopal, the main organizer of the march and chairman of the internationally-known Ekta Parishad movement. [4]

If multinationals needs land government provide them but if landless want land, government denied them. All matters of land reforms laws like SEZ come under 9th schedule. Earlier the rule was that laws under 9th cannot be review by court but now after the Supreme Court decision that court can interpret the laws come under 9th schedule, there is a little hope that this discrimination of farmers could be stop. But it is not so easy. Nandigram issue is an example. Government is giving the land for SEZ that is fertile and producing. This totally shows the unfriendly nature of the government with the poor farmers. Indian property laws are unsettled and are not precise and this also helps the government to acquire the land of poor landowners. And the other factor is red tapping and corruption that also allows exploiting these farmers. So we cannot just blame big industrialists. There are so many loopholes present in our system. Farmers are committing suicides because they are not able to give interest of the loan. There is no facility of small credit without any security like in Bangladesh where Gramin Bank of Yunus Khan is giving small credit without any security.

Cause of poverty

The main cause of poverty in India is unemployment. This is also because of illiteracy. The poor people cannot afford private school education and the level of government education is very bad. So we can say that only few can get jobs in the future because of lack of education and qualification. The poor people also cannot open their own business because they are not able to get sufficient credit. This is because of lack of education and lack of sufficient security. The credit only goes to the rich people who have collateral securities.

Consequences of poverty

Due to poverty poor people are not able to invest and even save money. Saving and investing are become only the business of well-to-do people. In real sense, India is experiencing such situation where economic development is only helpful to the rich and more secured people. On one hand people are talking about airplanes, latest mobiles, LCD TVs, five star hotels, abroad education etc. but on the other hand people are deprived of even basic needs like shelter, food, primary education, proper sanitation, pure water, permanent jobs, etc. Such contrasts are not sustainable, and this is clearly evident from the rising protests, incidents of violence, the crime rate, insurgencies and Naxalite activity.[5]

Separation of classes
Indians are now divided into three parts- upper class, middle class and lower class. The upper class i.e. the big businessmen are always trying to attract middle class because they see them as their market. They do not bother about the poor class. Not only upper class is responsible for this situation but also middle class is also responsible for this. Middle-class Indians who feel little obligation to the poor tend to believe that they have made their contribution simply by becoming middle class. They focus on their own needs because they have overcome a great deal to get where they are and still fear slipping back. Moreover, they say, why give to the state when corrupt politicians will just waste the money? Meanwhile, small charities oriented towards children and women are sprouting up across the country. But life expectancy at birth across India as a whole—62 for men, 64 for women—is lower than in poor Latin American countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua, and the poorest rural families eat less rice than they did five years ago. And no statistic can capture the agonizing sight of a barefoot, ragged four year old doing somersaults at a traffic light to earn a rupee.[6]

Government launched the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to give employment to the poorest to the poor. It is launched with the aim of providing 60m people a measure of financial protection, through guaranteed work and unemployment benefit. But this scheme is also seems not more than a political tool. Again red tapping, bad governance and corruption are the obstacles that are likely to come before this scheme.

It is not true that India is not developing that India is not developing but it is not developing altogether. Some of the Indian states are doing well. In Tamil Nadu, half the population lived below the poverty line in the mid-1960s, but effective contraception, female education and primary healthcare led to population stability and a consequent drop in poverty by the end of the century. But in Bihar, which had the same percentage of people below the poverty line in the 1960s, the population still grows at a staggering pace, making anti-poverty measures hard to pursue. Both Assam and Punjab have histories of political violence and a poor school system, but the latter's infrastructure allows for a standard of life far ahead of the former.[7]

It’s not easy to eradicate poverty in a country of having largest number of poor. But somehow steps have to be taken to come up with this problem. The government should take some steps with the public involvement. The upper class and middle class have to realize their civic duty towards poor. I am not talking about the national sharing but atleast some measures should be taken to make flow of money towards the poor one. It’s good that the big businessmen are becoming richer but poor should get some benefit out of this. They should give a better platform to the poor through aiding them by providing with good education, proper housing, safe drinking water, proper sanitation facility and more importantly jobs. The banks should take some measures that will allow short period and small credit without any security to the poor so that they can start their own business. By only such efforts we can develop in true sense and can say our country as Incredible India. In the end I want to say that it’s not the gyrating Sensex that will bring our country prosperity, only the all-over development will bring India into the league of developed countries.
[2] By V. Rajagopal from Tirupati from the review of article Inhumanity Index (26th Oct., 2007) in Hindu
[3] By Shri Uday Pratap Singh from Synopsis of Debates of Rajya Sabha on March 8, 2007.
[6] (Replies of an article from Ashish Bhatt, Yasmin Khan and Dhiraj Nayyar)
[7] ( replies of an article from Ashish Bhatt, Yasmin Khan and Dhiraj Nayyar)

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