by BA and Venkatesh Sundaram
Image source: https://peoplesdispatch.org/2020/01/06/jan-8-strike-with-73-million-jobless-in-india-its-a-fight-for-survival/
According to a news item in The Quint, “…the Monthly Economic Review (MER) for April 2022 makes this assertion. MER is published by the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) in the Ministry of Finance. The document notes, “Evidence on consumption patterns further suggests that inflation in India has a lesser impact on low-income strata than on high-income groups.” ‘’
As laughable as the above may appear, it would be very funny if matters were not so tragic. The country has been experiencing a period of high inflation and unbearable price rise of essential commodities, and fuel, among other items. Cooking gas prices too in this period have been soaring and have placed an unbearable burden on poorer families, who are now struggling to cook food and are making do with less food to save money on cooking. It has been reported that even so-called middle-class families are broke by the third week of the month in the recent past.
As if in response to the reports above, the PM has announced cutting back of fuel prices by approximately 10 rupees per litre of petrol and a similar figure for diesel. The government appears to have woken up to one of the basic tenets of economic science that there has to be adequate demand in the market for a capitalist economy to keep growing. Lack of adequate demand will depress economic activity. While the statement quoted above appears to a ghastly joke, it is also in all likelihood true. The profit seekers are unable to make profits at the rates they seek to.
Many experts have been wondering as to why India continues to have such high fuel prices, especially at a time when the press is full of reports on how India has been purchasing crude oil at subsidised prices from Russia and elsewhere. The only explanation is that the Government is hell-bent on filling its coffers by making every citizen pay heavy taxes on every litre of petrol or diesel.
While working families are struggling to survive, the stock market is doing well and our billionaires are doing even better. In fact this is something that can’t be emphasised too much: whatever happens – pandemic or inflation, food shortages or joblessness – the super-rich keep getting richer at an obscene rate. The only thing that can account for this is that the entire orientation of the economy is to serve the insatiable greed of the super-rich.
The citizens of India are well within their rights to ask of the Government what exactly is going on. The government must explain why the economy has been brought to this pass. Hardly a few years ago, there was much talk about a 5 trillion dollar economy, of India having overcome the `Hindu’ rate of growth. It was claimed that India deserves to be in the high table of economically developed countries, and that it would be a leader in such economic blocs as BRICS, and now this. The government and the billionaire capitalists have been celebrating various waves of reforms, from the downsizing of public sector companies, opening the doors to foreign investors, cutting back on social services spending and a lean, mean government.
Where have all the fruits of the sweat and labour of the people of India gone? The people have a right to know.
From the days of Bheeshma and Kautilya, it has been stated that the Raja has a duty to provide for the Praja. It cannot be that only the Praja has duties while the Raja has only rights. Part of the duties of the Raja include taking care of the welfare of the people, and the reason for collecting taxes is to fulfil the needs of the Praja and to ensure the smooth functioning of the economy. Not living up to this would be cause for the Praja to replace the Raja. Over the course of centuries, these notions remained the backbone of the governance of India. The Ain-e-Akbar catalogues carefully the revenues and expenditure of the State in the not so distant past. Only the colonial period was one of loot and plunder with no role for the State except to guard the assets of the Empire and crush any revolt of the people.
The post 1947 period has seen a situation where the Government rules in the name of the people on paper, while in reality does not appear to have any duties towards the people. The fact is that the superrich of this country have been relentlessly getting richer, no matter which party is in power. On the other hand, the lot of the toiling people has not been getting any better – their share of the wealth that is produced keeps on shrinking with every passing year. Income and wealth disparity are quite obscene in India.
The acute economic crisis facing the people of India reflects this unacceptable state of affairs. Those who rule India today just don’t seem to care about the lot of the people – and the superrich get even richer with every passing day. After all, it is the superrich who bankroll elections and are in fact “the power behind the throne” Except for the act of pressing a button on an EVM every few years, the toiling people have absolutely no power to change their conditions.
Lok Raj Sangathan has maintained that lack of political power is responsible for the toiling people being so brazenly short-changed. It wishes to work with all organisations and people interested in the welfare of the people to work out and implement plans to ensure that sovereignty actually vests in the hands of the people instead of the cabinet, and that people are truly empowered politically. Only then can we, the people, take concrete steps to ensure that the economy is oriented towards ensuring our material and cultural well-being instead of ensuring maximum profits for a minority of billionaires.