By Krishna Jha
In the deep shadows of Pandemic, the society faces a divide, etched in blood. The vast sections of the masses, fighting the acute scarcity and steep rise in prices of essentials, also realise that the challenges are inherent in the system itself. To surmount them needs a struggle at the basics. The French revolution in 1789 had started with a hike in taxes on loaves. The epoch-making change came only after miseries and the exploitation of the masses reached a quantitative saturation that was imperative for the qualitative change. People were burdened with unprecedented tax hike, rise in prices, without consideration for other interruptions in agrarian production. Starving and dying, they could not face another blow, and stood up to fight for justice.
Today, as people keep struggling to meet the two ends and also the Pandemic, realise that unless all the suffering masses join together, the challenges cannot be met. The brutal deprivation, taking the toll from all sections of the society except the super rich, calls for unity of all the intermediary groups. Middle section has almost joined those living in utter penury making the ‘haves’ facing the milieu of ‘have nots’ directly. Society is entering a new stage, capitalism is leaving space for finance capital where investment and production is secondary and finance is primary. The conditions are harsh with starvation, death and finally debt. Banks are no longer the judicious creditors. Usury, which was the practice earlier has made a come back. The rate of interest is going up in unison with greed.
Unhappy, suffocating masses in the society have nowhere left to breathe easily, especially after the cruel onslaught of Pandemic. Rise in Inequality has always been there but there were various levels, based on earnings. According to available reports, since Pandemic, along with the unforeseen rise in the graph of the stock market, the economic realities have arrived at a frightening destination. It is the unprecedented growth of wealth that too when major share of production has been receding, micro, small and medium level enterprises are dying, working class faces financial annihilation, those few in the upper most ranks have accumulated huge wealth of 3. 4 trillion dollar, according to Boston Consulting group. The estimation was at par with the compounded annual growth rate for the five years before 2020.
In contrast to it, for those on the other side, even household savings are taking a hit. The centre for Economic Data and Analysis, at Ashoka University had studied the movement of gold, business, and real estate and found that there were changes every year at a quarterly level, as these were sold to meet the two ends. According to the CMIE data, it was found that the readings about these three categories demonstrate a steep downfall as there is nothing to rescue them except the family savings. Since October-December, 2019, even before Pandemic struck, deprivation reached its ultimate.
The ugly omens were foretelling that economic recovery would be harder as rate of income data had started downward slide, even in pre- Pandemic months. The savings gone would never be replenished. During a study by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, of M East Ward of Mumbai, one of the most impoverished part of the metropolis, the average income of the inhabitants here has gone down at unprecedented rate, 47 percent, almost half, and that is for those fortunate ones who have job. By May 28, urban unemployment rate was found to be 14.5 percent, rising from seven percent and to twelve percent during the second wave of Pandemic. There are also the self employed ones like dhaba and small shop owners, drivers and the daily wagers hit brutally, and 12.5 percent among them failed to find livelihood even after unlocking last year.
According to CMIE data, there is no initiative to start new investments. The investments were down by 13 percent in June quarter itself as there was a bump in the previous quarter. Amidst all this there has been a privatisation spree too of the public sector units. In fact the public sector units received the hardest blow in this regard as they face a consistent process of disinvestment. So far as unemployment data is concerned, CMIE reports confirm that in the rural areas it was 10.63 in May while in June it was 8.75. The upward move came as suggested by mobile indicators, and also power consumption. NREGA always works as a trouble shooter, as it did in first Corona aggression for the migrant workers. This time the employment generated was lowest in last three months.
Meanwhile, India has added 40 billionaires in Pandemic year. Gautam Adani becomes second richest man in Asia and comes among fourteen richest in the world. But that is not all. Panama Papers have revealed Rs 20,000 crore in undeclared assets that has been identified till now, more to tumble out from under the carpet soon. The divide is getting deeper and wider with time. (IPA Service)