The neo-liberal economic policies implemented since 1991 have led to an enormous rise in the number of billionaires in the country though we are also faced with a rise in inequality over the years, veteran journalist P. Sainath has said.
Addressing the delegate session of the 14th State conference of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) here on Monday, he said that three major phenomenon stared us in the face. “The first of these is the unprecedented rise of inequality in Indian society. The second is the astonishing rise of fundamentalism and obscurantism and the third is the greatest agrarian crisis we have seen in our independent history. Each one of these has its own dynamics, but they are pretty much interrelated,” he said.
In 1991, before India embraced neo-liberalism, there was not a single Indian dollar billionaire (an individual whose net worth in rupee terms is equal to one billion US dollars). In 2000, Forbes magazine told us that we had eight of them. In 2012, India produced 53 Indian dollar billionaires. “In 2018 March, we have 121 of them, we ranked fourth in the world in the number of dollar billionaires though we are ranked 130th in the human development index of the United Nations,” he pointed out.
Mr. Sainath said that these 121 individuals account for 22% of the Gross Domestic Product of the country with a population of 1.3 billion. “There is no country to match you in that, such a narrow percentage controlling one fifth of the GDP. More interesting is the rate at which that wealth has grown. In those 121 individuals, one person accounts for the wealth of 10% of all of them – Mukesh Ambani,” Mr. Sainath said.
Mr. Ambani added $16.9 billion to his wealth of $22 billion in just a year. “We think slight change in economic policies enabled him make that wealth. The changes and the policies introduced just to favour Jio Telecom made massive differences to Mr. Ambani’s wealth. Also, we saw for the first time in history, a Prime Minister peddling products, in violation of law,” he said.