90% rise in Indian billionaires’ wealth

BHABANI SHANKAR NAYAK | 28 DECEMBER, 2020


 There has been a 90% rise in Indian billionaires’ wealth over past decade. It is not accidental. The BJP led government reduced corporate income tax from 30 to 22 percent starting from the financial year 2019/20. New corporates established in India after October 2019 will only pay 15 percent. It has also provided many other opportunities, incentives and foregoing exemptions to corporations.

Meanwhile the Union government further pursues economic and agricultural policies to further marginalise farmers and the non-wealthy majority, and empower the wallet of its Hindutva capitalist cronies by reforming agricultural policies to dismantle all safety nets.

The central government follows the policy prescriptions of its Washington masters in the International Monetary Fund, whose Executive Board concluded its consultation with the Government of India on November 25, 2019 and released its Country Report No.19/385 the following month.

The report openly acknowledges the deletion of market sensitive information and policy intentions as part of the half-baked IMF’s transparency policy. However, it reveals the policy prescriptions for the deepening of commercial forces in the Indian economy.

The IMF advocates and encourages the Government of India to reduce corporate income tax and implement both land and agricultural reform for further trade and investment liberalisation. It further prescribes the increase and integration of wholesale agriculture markets for the expansion of agricultural exports.

The New Agriculture Export Policy (2018) as designed by the BJP government and the IMF’s prescriptions both aim to double agricultural exports to USD60 billion by 2022. The IMF further argues that the slow progress in reforming labour, land, and agriculture are creating setbacks in the “structural reform process” for economic growth and investment.

Improving the business climate is the central objective of the IMF and Modi government. To help achieve these goals New Delhi approved an Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund of INR 20 billion to be used for the development and up-gradation of infrastructure in 10,000 rural agricultural markets and 585 regulated wholesale markets.

Within this context, the deployment of Adani Agri Logistics is not accidental but a systematic business initiative for the procurement, storage, transport and distribution of food in India. Adani Agri Logistics will likely be helped to develop a monopoly over the food market.

The corporatisation of agriculture and marketisation of food security will likely accelerate malnutrition, already on the rise, as well as hunger and starvation deaths. It will destroy and pave the path to privatise and commercialise the Food Corporation of India. A corporate takeover of the Food Corporation of India will be socially and economically devastating for India and Indians.

Besides this New Delhi is implementing three dangerous agricultural policy reforms prescribed by the IMF. These policies are concomitant with the requirements of commercial forces. The infamous black laws that lakhs of farmers have been protesting against will destroy their freedom to produce, and diminish the security of their products and livelihoods.

It is a death warrant against agricultural communities and farmers in India.

Agriculture is the source of livelihood for 494.9 million landless Indians and 263 million Indians depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their everyday survival. The corporate takeover of Indian agriculture and growth of contract farming will accelerate agricultural capitalism, in which big businesses will command production, consumption and distribution and control the lives of the 60% of Indians engaged in agricultural activities.

The Modi government is accelerating the agrarian crisis to create business opportunities for the corporations. The agrarian crisis and food insecurities in India move together. Food self-sufficiency, the required agricultural production for buffer stocks and accessibility of food for all in India should not just be a dream but a reality given the availability of agricultural technology, land and labour.

But unfortunately, successive governments are dismantling every single social and economic safety net designed after Indian independence.

The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) is not an insurance for farmers but an income source for private insurance companies in India. The policy will ensure to keep farmers in a debt trap in the name of improved credit flows. Meanwhile, the PM Kisan Pension Yojana for small and marginal farmers is a way to consolidate the small savings of poor, small and marginalised farmers for corporate investment.

These policies are detrimental to Indians and their economy.

India has followed an integrated approach to agricultural economy and food security after independence. The production, availability and accessibility of food for all were the objectives of the integrated policy. The objective was to provide a minimum support price to farmers and lead them to produce food for the food security of the country.

So Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees were established to procure the products and safeguard farmers from the market and maintain price stability to access food for survival. The vast public distribution system, which is still a lifeline for many, more so since the pandemic, was developed to ensure food security through food distribution and rationing during a food crisis. The Food Corporation of India was integrated within such a policy framework to provide buffer stocks to face situations of scarcities caused by natural calamities or war.

From food to fashion, markets have always failed to develop a mechanism of egalitarian distribution. They only work to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a few and marginalise the majority.

Successive governments led by the Congress party have destroyed the integrated policy approach to agriculture and food security in India. The Universal Public Distribution System was dismantled by Congress governments by reforming it as Revamped or Targeted PDS. These reforms destroyed the integrated and universalist character of the agricultural and food security policy to allow market forces to grow during half-hearted liberalisation in the 1980s and full-fledged liberalisation and privatisation after the 1991 new economic reforms.

The BJP/RSS used to oppose these reform policies during those days in the name of nationalism. But the RSS/BJP stand today on the foundations of reform policies created and shaped by the Congress party. There is no difference between Congress and BJP when it comes to economic policies. Both uphold the interests of the corporations.

The ruling and capitalist class strategy is to expand consumerism and market of food on a massive scale, so that the masses continue to seek wage-work for food. Such an approach is suitable for the political dominance of BJP, social and cultural hegemony of RSS, and economic dominance of corporates over Indian people and their resources.

The food insecure and unemployed Indians will always be available as a massive army of underpaid labourers for the Indian and global capitalist class to amass their profit by inflicting mass misery.

The IMF argument behind the productivity of agriculture and empowerment of farmers is dubious. These agricultural reform policies will not increase productivity in Indian agriculture and farmers are not going to be prosperous. Capitalism as a system is always against productivity and mass prosperity. The economic productivity of labour has increased with the growth of science and technology, but mass prosperity did not grow.

Like the rest of the world, India is witnessing concentration of wealth and marginalisation of masses and their everyday life. As the late David Graeber has argued, “the ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger” to their command and control system of hegemony called free market capitalism.

It is clear that Indian billionaires and their Brahminical social and economic order find its safety net under the present leadership.; European capitalist systems were evolved over centuries of trial and error, but Indian capitalism has been built by its consciously designed foundation of caste based Brahminical hierarchy.

These ruinous economic policies, social disability and political stability are the three weapons of Indian ruling and non-ruling class.

The ongoing farmers’ movement against these policies gives new hopes of deepening democracy for a better India. It has exposed the corporate character of our governments. It has dismantled the hegemonic narrative of neoliberal governance. The mainstream media and all the hypocritic propaganda has failed to hide the authoritarian nakedness of the government.

The ongoing agricultural reforms will accelerate the corporatisation of agriculture and create conditions where farmers will be slaves in their own land. The landless farmers and agricultural workers will be low waged workers. Mass misery, hunger and unemployment will be three net outcomes of these policies, while pushing India and Indians to live under corporate overlords.

The long-term outcomes of these policies will be more dangerous. Long term food insecurity and unemployment creates the conditions for a slave society.

courtesy The Citizen