The Other India
India is shining. The Indian elephant is on a roll, galloping along on the path to economic progress. India has more billionaires than any other Asian country. Indians are starting new companies. Indian companies are acquiring foreign ones. The rupee is stronger than it has been in recent years. Foreign exchange reserves are at a record high. Stock markets are on a roll. The GDP is growing at a phenomenal rate. The list goes on.
It sure does.
Only the very rich are getting obscenely rich. The growth is mainly due to the services sector and main beneficiaries are probably the technology and finance professionals. Costs are rising as a result, and other middle class Indians are feeling the pinch. Caste based politics is taking several states backward rather than forward. The very partisan media is indulging in a dangerous game of sensationalism that we have never seen earlier. The poor are not getting any benefit of the growth. Large scale migration to the major cities is increasing stress on the urban infrastructure. We have a serious power deficit. Literacy levels are not improving as much as one would hope.
People straight out of technical and business schools are earning salaries unheard of till a few years ago. Not so much growth for other professions. The costs are rising as a result of the increased purchasing power of these professionals. You can go to a coffee shop and spend hundred rupees on a coffee and some snack.
It is not uncommon to hear of apartments costing in crores of rupees. Surprisingly, costs are starting to match the US (in dollar terms), but not the infrastructure. But given that not everybody gets those kind of salaries, how is the rest of India going to cope with this inflation?
The rich are richer than the rich people in even developed countries.
“If you look at Forbes, the oracle of capitalism, India ranks 4th in the number of dollar-billionaires, after America, Germany and Russia. More recently, some gentleman paid Rs 15 lakh to get a preferred number for his cellphone.” (A Nation of Two Planets)
“This is Mumbai, the commercial and entertainment center of India and the country’s fastest-growing city, home to more and more millionaires and Maybachs and restaurants and nightclubs and strip bars and movie studios and immigrants and luxury-goods stores every day. And its citizens — or some of the privileged ones, at least — are eating it up, embracing the explosion of luxury culture. The city is home to the kind of shopping one could find on Rodeo Drive, as well as the kind of ferocious poverty that defines the third world.” ( Mumbai’s moment)
In these same metros, coexisting with the uber rich, lives the Other India. The poor are as poor as ever, and the gap just keeps widening.
Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata are all home to massive, sprawling slums in which a large portion of its citizens live. These slums are severely lacking in essential services such as decent housing, sanitation and access to clean, safe water. Their denizens are pushed to the very margins of society, existing in the smallest sliver of space possible. Living on the periphery, they are often a source of embarrassment to those who wish to present only the glowing face of Indian success. (How The Other Half Lives)
On the United Nations Human Development Index, India ranks a dismal 127, way behind countries such as Libya and Columbia.
The agriculture sector has major problems. Farmers have been drinking their pesticides to commit suicides due to poverty. They wouldn’t share the euphoria of a Sensex crossing 17000 if they are unable to feed their families.
It is easy to lose track of the big picture in the euphoria of economic growth, but this growth is not balanced and is affecting only small sections of the society. Is this the sort of growth that we want? India is poised for greatness, but we cannot afford to lose track of social issues in pursuing economic growth. A record GDP growth rate means nothing for the millions who don’t have food to eat, or water to drink.
To quote John F Kennedy
“Economic growth without social progress lets the great majority of the people remain in poverty while a privileged few reap the benefits of rising abundance.”