India is a rich country with poor people. It is a country where the rich become richer, and the poor become poorer. The poor are often looked down upon, and needless to say, class discrimination still exists. They are not shown any empathy but are sympathized with. They toil day and night to make their ends meet yet are not respected or appreciated for the hard work they put in.
In India, poverty is still a major challenge. Unsurprisingly India consists of around 84 million people who live in extreme poverty as of May 2021. Due to the pandemic, poverty numbers have reached as high as 115 million people, with the total peaking at 400 million by 2021. One must be aware that India’s share of the world’s population is less than the extremely poor. This makes one ponder about where and why we as a country are lacking.
Voting is undertaken mostly by poorer classes compared to the rich and elite ones. Rural areas provide higher voter turnout than the cities. This clearly shows that the poor have faith and long for change to be brought by whichever Government they’re choosing. The rich have relatively lower expectations. This faith of the poor is exploited, and fair opportunities to every citizen irrespective of caste, creed, religion, and economic status are not provided. Hence, the barriers are still existent.
The difference between the voter turnout ratio shows us which class of society demands positive change and the same class being marginalized. The availability of some platforms that provide some sort of equality, like a platform for their voices to be heard, doesn’t guarantee a corruption-free world that stands on the pillars of justice and equality. Statistics show that the record of reducing poverty is lesser in democratic countries compared to the non-democratic ones like China.
The nature of politics in India and the rise in poverty ratios is not just a result of economic aspects but has, in fact, become a political necessity for elected politicians. Recent years have witnessed a rise in capitalism, and the role of the state in actively eradicating the barriers of inequalities has been reduced. Nevertheless, pro-poor democratic politics have been fuelled with the introduction of numerous rights, viz. the right to education, information, and food security, with the help of several acts such as the National Food Security Act, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, and many more.
All this information throws light on the fact that the Government, to some extent, is responsive to the needs of the poor. A reflection of the power of India’s democratic processes is shown by the fact that the two trends, namely increasing inequality and advances to the poor class in terms of legal rights, have taken place in the same duration. The nature of grants and opportunities available to citizens and the subservience of markets to existing social and political institutions prolong discrimination.
In recent years, the governments which have absorbed the pro-poor policies have been quite successful in India. The parties which are referred to as “populist” are the ones who have competed to give out basic facilities to poor families. This is merely a response to the symptoms of inequality rather than a much-needed solution. India’s economy is such that rather than reducing inequality, it disseminates it. This phenomenon is neither questioned by the state nor by political parties.
Policies that simply redistribute are not enough. Inequalities are based on the differences which are rooted in initial bequests and are also a major factor responsible for the way we see the participation of the poor in the economy. Inequality of opportunity is a major concern that is influenced by political, social, and cultural factors, namely gender, caste, and religion which doesn’t fail to exclude the poor from the important economic processes. These social structures shape and influence the particular inequalities in access to education and nutrition.
The scheduled caste & scheduled tribe households are at certain disadvantages due to the lack of social mobility, creating problems for their addition to society. How can this issue be addressed? It can be done by creating and manifesting a political commitment to the aspects of secularism, gender empowerment, and undertaking much-needed action in education and public sector employment. We are witnessing the rise of several movements which led to their inclusion in several political institutions. Nevertheless, this hasn’t altered the basic structures of caste and class oppression, and neither has this changed the way of organization of economic presentations.
The two processes of political and economic empowerment have weakened the regulator of economic institutions. The fiscal disciplines which are imposed on the budget of the national Government determine the ability of the national Government to provide subsidies to the excluded class. The spiking levels of inequality have created pressure on the Government to restructure as the Government is still accountable to the people. We see the reaction to increasing inequalities in two forms which are both protestant and violent forms. The reactions to these forms from the Government come in various ways.
Political stability and the sustainable growth of the economy are threatened massively by inequalities. The Government has undertaken a recent move to pledge legal, food, education, livelihood, and health rights. For the poor and excluded classes, democracy must not only be about universal permits and active participation in polling processes but also about reclaiming the state. The rising participation of the marginalized class has made the democratic process in India full of strength. Yet, this doesn’t guarantee the successful eradication of inequality and doing something about the bias which exists on all levels.
Equality needs to be understood as equivalence in the joy of fundamental rights and various forms of freedom and, most importantly— the equality of opportunities with regards to education and work. It is of utmost importance to provide good jobs that can secure the lives of poor people along with empowering them.
Written by: Harshita