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Of Millionares & the poor

When the Forbes let the 100 richest Indians’ list out, I wondered whether I was living in India. A poor country with so many billionaires ? Are we actually a poor country or a rich country ? I was adequately confused. And this happened when recession was not over yet.

Our newly crowned rich people account for at least one-fourth of the country’s total GDP. Their collective wealth is $276 billion, or 13 lakh crore. Imagine the concentration of wealth in a few hands.

Yes, they made fortunes with their entrepreneurship, ability to toil hard against all odds, visionary approach, innovation and diversification. The wealth they generated has definitely helped create more jobs and take the country on the path of development.

Some saw in it a moment of glory as the number of rich is growing. India was never a rich country, though she was dubbed as `sone ki chidiya’ where there was dearth of nothing. No one however, saw the `golden bird’. Is it coming back now ?

Of late, economically liberalized India is witnessing a fashion of glorifying the neo-rich and their wealth (no matter how they earned the fortunes), conveniently turning a Nelson’s eye towards the real and serious issues.

So is it a time to rejoice or to have a holistic view at where India stands today? This is because a debate has already started on the duties and social responsibilities of the rich in India.

An old classic saying keeps visiting my mind very often. And, as I was writing this blog I thought of it all over again. ``Measure people by the size of their hearts, not the size of their bank accounts.’’

Should the billionaires be measured by their ever-swelling bank accounts or by the hearts (?) they possess for the poor.

Lists like these paint a stark contrast on the mosaic of a country like ours. On the one hand the billionaires are rising (how the rich get richer is anybody’s guess ) and on the other the poverty is also rising steadily. In other words, the gap between the rich and the poor (India and Bharat ?) is widening rapidly than you imagined, thus disturbing the very social fabric of this country.

Well, I am not against the rich—after all who does not like money ? Nor I am against these billionaires. Some of these wealthy people are into philanthropic works. The question is how would this speedy wealth generation process help India walk out of the poverty trap, if at all.

The other side:

Much before economic reforms were scented, Indira Gandhi had vowed to `` garibi hatao’’. It was an election stunt. She won the 1971 general elections riding on the populist wave of `eradicate poverty ` slogan. Ironically poverty kept growing thereafter and politicians of Indira Gandhi’s party in particular became rich and richer. Then there was Mukesh Ambani ( richest Indian on the list) telling us at an IIM-I function three years ago that ``garibi hatao nahi, amiri badhao ka nara chahiye…’’.

Considering all this, the latest figures appear more disturbing. A World Bank report says, India is home to one-third of all poor in the world today. India’s over 70% population is living below $2 a day, a little less than sub-Saharan Africa, considered the world’s poorest region. What a shame !

Joblessness is on the rise here. Agriculture share in India’s GDP has declined from 46% in 1960 to 20% today. Desperate farmers are deserting agriculture to move to cities in big numbers ( Remember SEZ scam ?). And with high inflationary trends as are witnessed today, the poverty line will have to be raised. BIMARU tag from MP, Bihar and such states refuses to go away. Kalahandi may have been off the front pages and tele-screens, but there are many more Kalahandis all over India. Unholy alliance of businessmen-politicians-bureaucrats is eating into the poor’s money.

The challenge before this so-called socialist India is how to strike balance between the two extremes.

I only wish these billionaires will have hearts that would bleed for the countless poor who have to sleep whole night out in the open in freezing cold, have no money to feed their children, no medicines, and have no water to drink. They barely exist.

Is it time to rejoice or...?

(Blogger is a senior journalist)

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About The Author


Abhilash Khandekar


Madhya Pradesh ,  INDIA

Eminent Journalist,Currently Editor Dainik Bhaskar Bhopal.

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