Narendra Modi government nurtured a ‘billionaire raj’ more unequal than even British Raj: Congress

India’s inequality levels among highest in the world; demonetisation, unplanned GST rollout, ‘attempted and implemented’ legal changes supported ‘billionaire raj’, says Jairam Ramesh

March 21, 2024 04:57 am | Updated 07:56 am IST - NEW DELHI

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Citing a global report that shows inequality in India had widened, with the share of the top 1% population in national income at historically high levels in 2023, the Congress on March 20 criticised the Narendra Modi government’s policies for nurturing a ‘billionaire raj’ more unequal than even the British Raj.

As per a study published by The World Inequality Lab on Monday titled ‘Income and Wealth Inequality in India: The Rise of The Billionaire Raj’, India’s richest 1% people have a 22.6% share of national income, the highest in over a century, while the bottom 50% of the population have a 15% share. The study also said wealth inequality is near historic highs.

Alleging that Mr. Modi nurtured this ‘billionaire raj’ to “favour his friends and fund his party’s campaigns”, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the rise of top-end inequality had been particularly pronounced between 2014 and 2023. “The Modi sarkar’s policies have directly caused this perverse growth through three methods: enrich the rich, impoverish the poor and hide the data,” he said in a statement.

Sale of public assets

Mr. Ramesh said most government contracts are handed out to a chosen few corporates even as public assets are being sold to the same corporates at record discounts. “Now we also know that many of these companies have been donating large amounts to the ruling party under the chanda do, dhanda lo [donate to the party to gain business] scheme,” he said, referring to the electoral bonds scheme now abolished by the Supreme Court.

“Demonetisation, the unplanned GST rollout, and the attempted and implemented changes to environmental, land acquisition, farm, and labour laws have all been done to support the billionaire raj,” he said. The emergence of five big conglomerates, including the Adani Group, who are building monopolies in 40 sectors, has caused India’s current inflation, Mr. Ramesh alleged.

“In 2015, when a common man used to spend ₹100 on goods, ₹18 would go as profit to the business owner — in 2021, the owner gets ₹36 in profits. The combination of these rising prices and an unemployment crisis has caused the common man’s real wages to stagnate,” the Congress communications cell chief said.

‘Data suppressed’

Noting that the report, co-authored by inequality expert and French scholar Thomas Piketty, flags the quality of economic data as “notably poor” in India, Mr. Ramesh said the Congress had consistently highlighted this. “The government failed to conduct the 2021 Population Census, refused to publish the 2011 Socio Economic Caste Census, manipulated GDP figures, and suppressed inconvenient data like the National Sample Survey (NSS) 2017-18, which showed an unprecedented decline in rural consumption expenditure,” he pointed out.

“The lack of adequate data, the Modi sarkar’s strategy to silence negative news, has contributed to a huge policy failure. Any government cannot resolve India’s economic crisis without collecting data on the living conditions of 140 crore Indians,” Mr. Ramesh said.

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