This article is written under pain due to the mini-event of ‘Tiananmen Square’ being replayed in ‘Nandigram’, West Bengal, India on 14th March, 2007. The objective is to present ‘Real India’ to the world thro’ OpEdNews platform. The author lives within 200kms (125 miles) from Nandigram, the affected area.
India, the largest democracy, faces a similar challenge as the U.S., the 2nd largest democracy, does. In U.S., as I understand from India, in its fight against terror that further increases the risk of terrorism through wrongful policies of the Bush-administration; anyone who wants troops back home is dubbed as anti-patriot, and ignorant of global geopolitics.
In India, in its fight against poverty and for elusive ‘inclusive growth’, anyone who opposes government policies for growth that further marginalizes the already marginalized ones is dubbed as a fool again, lacking basic sense of global economics.
Well, India indeed happens to be a fascinating ‘incredible’ nation – the more one sees it, more one gets mesmerized by its sheer diversity. And many of us, Indians who see India closely from within India, wonder on what’s the true identity our country should have in the global landscape.
In mid-1970s, there was ‘Garibi hatao’ (Abolish Poverty), and in 2004 it was ‘Aam Admi’ (The Common Man) campaign that Indian National Congress, the party behind present ruling coalition government, and one that ruled India for more than 80% of the time since independence, had. The result of the former campaign, if can be concluded after almost three decades, is for any to see when 70% of Indians live below $2 a day and more than 30% below a dollar a day. Reports few days back showed 95% of rural India, where 65% of 1.1 billion Indian live, live with below a dollar a day consumption expenditure, and 5% below $0.2 a day. Numbers speak, and may vary little bit, but it’s there for all to see.
And ‘Incredible India’ has again shown incredible results with this ‘Aam Admi’ (The Common Man) government, as India continues shining in global billionaires list published by Forbes recently. India happens to be the undisputed ‘numero uno’ in Asia, dubbed to be the continent of 21st century globally, in billionaires’ list.
Japan, with its size of nominal economy more than five times of Indian GDP, and population of less than 1/8th compared to India, has 24 billionaires (billionaires combined net wealth $64 billion) whereas India has 36 billionaires (combined net wealth of $191 billion).
And when this billionaires’ wealth is computed as a per cent age of GDP, India probably ranks highest in the world, at around 25% (highest even by excluding wealth of Indian residents’ wealth abroad), whereas comparable figure for the world is 6-7%, for U.S. it is 12-13%, for Japan it is less than 2%. India’s share on global GDP happens to be 2% with 17% population with per capita income around $700, 1/10th of global average, and nearly 1/60th of US average. India’s per capita GNI is lower than Sub-Saharn Africa (I have nothing personal against Sub-Saharan Africa per se, but that’s what many Indians believe to be the last place of development globally), and few recent reports from multilateral institutes confirmed same rank in parameters on various Human Development Index. Leave aside world’s largest number of people under poverty line (nearly half of the world), even world’s largest illiterates (more than half here?) in India are having the privilege of sharing same identity as ‘Indian’ with few odd billionaires in ‘Incredible India’.
So there goes another feather in the cap of India’s ‘unity in diversity’ & ‘Incredible India’ (there are many more where ‘left is right’ in India) concepts/campaigns.
Indian government, led by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram with other colleagues, pursue policies leading to a mad race to the bottom for growth, benchmark being China. And as the winner is who records higher growth rate, for which present administration is ready to acquire land from poor farmers in India to be given for much needed capital and industrialization to any, irrespective of the credibility of the owner, and irrespective of the actual money brought in the table; even by offering as much concessions to the buyers as possible with tax payers' money. Nandigram is a glaring example with $500 million for 22,000 acres (if not more). It may be in the form of free land, free taxes, subsidized mining…list goes on. You name it, and investors get that from India as 28 Indian states (and seven Union Territories) fight within themselves for that investment.
Indian states have hypercompetition to attract investment, what if investors, more so reputed, ethical investors don’t have any competition to invest in India.And race to the bottom, being a well-researched area in global emerging economics, says exporting economies deliberately try to keep their currencies low. Thereby they indulge in the race to the bottom, which is evident now from China and Japan. And when large developed and developing giants indulge in that practice; think about the power that poor Bangladesh or Kenya in gaining export competitiveness. So for every winner in this race to the bottom, there would be many more losers; and the real winner is the country who is importing against credit money because finally he pays less for his imports, and thereby contains inflation.
In the Indian scenario, our present policy asks Assam, an Indian state in its North-East hilly areas, to compete with Gujarat, one of the prosperous one in west India. And thereby Indian states indulge into a similar race to the bottom where, like Kenya or Bangladesh, Assam or Bihar has no chance of competing with a Gujarat or a Maharashtra. Therefore along with few prospering states, the brighter side within India in economic growth, there remains a bigger darker side in many more states.
And the real winner happens to be the industries, many having dubious reputations.
A look at another important parameter, that is (revenue earned by government / billionaires' wealth) confirms that as India (0.4) again tops the list from the bottom, with comparative world, U.S., Japan figures being 3, 2 and around 10 justifies above allegation of offering various sops to the rich and/or highest income inequality possible.
As real estate boom did hit India little late and still remains on, for such a populous country not having sizable global land, land prices expectedly sky-rocket. The world knows India to be an agrarian society, but that’s not what a rapidly developing country needs. And somehow in the billionaires’ portfolio, there isn’t still 25% of India’s land.
‘How unfair’ decries Indian policy makers, expectedly. ‘They’ contribute 25% of India’s GDP in wealth, shouldn’t they deserve to own 25% of India’s land as well? Oh…yeah, state the present policy makers. Justice must be prevailed for so-called rich marginalized sections, as we have assertive reservations in caste line (why: ‘Indians vote their caste and not cast their vote’ as someone said) in Indian Constitution, even if they belong to creamier section of society. So why not reserve up to 25% of Indian land for the billionaires’ club…slowly…
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