The Oxfam report on inequality included another surprising voice calling for global economics to change. The Financial Times is one of the world’s most influential economic and business newspapers. It is quoted in the report as calling for “radical reforms to reverse the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades”, the period dominated by neoliberal economics. (AP)
The Oxfam report on inequality included another surprising voice calling for global economics to change. The Financial Times is one of the world’s most influential economic and business newspapers. It is quoted in the report as calling for “radical reforms to reverse the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades”, the period dominated by neoliberal economics. (AP)

Budget 2021: Overcome poverty, battle inequality

It would be right to go back to socialism’s commitment to equality, and to reform India’s economy so that overcoming poverty once again becomes the top priority.
By Mark Tully
UPDATED ON JAN 31, 2021 06:19 AM IST

In my last column, I wrote about the possible danger of an economic recovery which enriches the rich and impoverishes the poor. Now, it seems that the Covid-19 pandemic has already created that situation. The international aid agency, Oxfam, has published a report with the telling title The Inequality Virus. According to the global report, during the pandemic, “over two million people have died and hundreds of millions of people are being forced into poverty while many of the richest — individuals and corporations — are flourishing”.

The report quotes the telling description of the secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, of the global crisis we face. He said, “While we are floating in the same sea it’s clear that some are in super yachts while others are clinging to drifting debris.” In India, while the wealth of billionaires was increasing by 35% during the lockdown, 122 million citizens were losing their jobs.

The Oxfam report blames neoliberal economics for inequality, and points out that even Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, whose Davos meeting is the place to be seen for the world’s richest and most influential people, has said: “We must move on from neo-liberalism in the post-Covid era.” The jobs lost in the informal sector amounted to 75%. Handloom weavers and other craftspeople are among the most economically fragile communities in that sector.

Five years ago, I visited a weaver centre near Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh. At that time, the weavers, while by no means prosperous, were being helped by a non-governmental organisation to increase their income to establish digital ways of marketing their cloth by cutting out middlemen.

Before writing this column, I contacted Utkarsh, the coordinator of the centre, to find out how the weavers had fared during the lockdown. He replied, “They were pushed to extreme distress”. Because lockdown was imposed so suddenly, they had no time to prepare themselves for it. They were waiting for the government to tell them what to do. Even when the government distributed rations, they were only given to migrant workers who had returned home. There were no orders from master weavers, so they had no income and instead had to borrow money from them. The supply line of cotton from Surat was cut. That was not restored for four months. So, now, they are in debt and it will be difficult to pay off those debts because the demand for their cloth has not fully recovered.

Despite being a major source of employment, the handloom and handicrafts have been sectors most neglected by the government in the era of neoliberal economists. During this crisis, the textile ministry has also wound up the All India Handloom and Handicrafts Board, though this was done in the name of minimum government, maximum governance.

The Oxfam report on inequality included another surprising voice calling for global economics to change. The Financial Times is one of the world’s most influential economic and business newspapers. It is quoted in the report as calling for “radical reforms to reverse the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades”, the period dominated by neoliberal economics.

When India became independent, the leaders of the Congress saw overcoming poverty as their top priority and so they turned to socialism. Even now, India is committed constitutionally to socialism, but the commitment was made in 1976 by Indira Gandhi’s Emergency government which was flouting the Constitution. Indira Gandhi’s socialism gave that creed a bad name. It wouldn’t be right to go back to that socialism. Circumstances have changed so much that it wouldn’t be right to go back into Nehruvian socialism either. But it would be right to go back to socialism’s commitment to equality, and to reform India’s economy so that overcoming poverty once again becomes the top priority.

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
The emotional turmoil of unrequited love is real, but we can put it behind us fairly quickly if we try. Take cues from the 2009 film 500 Days of Summer. (FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES)
The emotional turmoil of unrequited love is real, but we can put it behind us fairly quickly if we try. Take cues from the 2009 film 500 Days of Summer. (FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES)

Hooked on a feelin’: With Love by Simran Mangharam

By Simran Mangharam
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 09:47 PM IST
Heartbreak is bad enough. A heart that withers away when your feelings aren’t returned is a different kind of pain. Sometimes, it’s not them it really is you?
Close
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vast appeal across so many social media platforms are tools that give unparalleled traction to India’s diplomatic outreach (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vast appeal across so many social media platforms are tools that give unparalleled traction to India’s diplomatic outreach (PTI)

The evolution of India’s Twitter diplomacy

By Syed Akbaruddin
PUBLISHED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:33 PM IST
In a multipolar world rife with concerns about terrorism, contentious trade disputes among allies and adversaries, catastrophic environmental degradation, health issues, human rights advocacy, the security implications of new technologies have made social media platforms an arena of inter-State contestation
Close
That’s not a glowing pitch for the history books. But the ignominy will not be hers. It will rest on the shoulders of the US lawmakers who were unable to overcome, once again, their hypocrisy, sexism and even, racism (AP)
That’s not a glowing pitch for the history books. But the ignominy will not be hers. It will rest on the shoulders of the US lawmakers who were unable to overcome, once again, their hypocrisy, sexism and even, racism (AP)

What is blocking Neera Tanden’s rise to the cabinet

By Yashwant Raj
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:33 PM IST
If confirmed, she will become the first Indian-American to hold a Cabinet position in the United States (US) federal government, as director of the office of budget and management
Close
Working in the cramped environment of their homes with little or no contact with teammates, for longer hours, without the relief of social friends and yet being expected to deliver the same quality of work as before, is an unrealistic ask — yet the norm among corporates (Shutterstock)
Working in the cramped environment of their homes with little or no contact with teammates, for longer hours, without the relief of social friends and yet being expected to deliver the same quality of work as before, is an unrealistic ask — yet the norm among corporates (Shutterstock)

Stress hits the bottom line – in more ways than you think

By Raghu Raman
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:32 PM IST
Corporates will pay a heavy price if they don’t understand the implications of mental health. Make well-being a priority for employees
Close
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)

The BJP’s ruthless expansion drive

UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:30 AM IST
Puducherry is only the latest instance of the Modi-Shah playbook of expanding political power. In a sense, Puducherry is now part of a pattern of Machiavellian intrigue that has been repeated from Arunachal and Manipur to Goa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh where a ruthlessly expansionist BJP seeks to consolidate its ascendancy by wangling either wholesale or retail defections.
Close
For China, there have always been certain issues that are core to its relationship with Myanmar. The latter is strategically important to gain access to the Indian Ocean as well as to Southeast Asia. It is economically important because of its natural resources such as timber, the hydroelectric possibilities stemming from its many large rivers, as well as oil and gas and minerals. Finally, China is committed to large-scale infrastructure projects in the country. (AFP)
For China, there have always been certain issues that are core to its relationship with Myanmar. The latter is strategically important to gain access to the Indian Ocean as well as to Southeast Asia. It is economically important because of its natural resources such as timber, the hydroelectric possibilities stemming from its many large rivers, as well as oil and gas and minerals. Finally, China is committed to large-scale infrastructure projects in the country. (AFP)

Myanmar-China ties: It’s complicated

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 07:53 PM IST
While China needs to work with Myanmar, the generals make for uneasy bedfellows in a relationship that has had a long and turbulent history.
Close
Women constitute only 14% of the 280,000 personnel in STEM in India’s research development institutions (UN data). In addition, although women’s participation in the workforce is higher at entry-level, it gradually decreases at higher research, academics and administration levels. (HTPHOTO)
Women constitute only 14% of the 280,000 personnel in STEM in India’s research development institutions (UN data). In addition, although women’s participation in the workforce is higher at entry-level, it gradually decreases at higher research, academics and administration levels. (HTPHOTO)

A gender equality framework for India’s sciences and tech disciplines

By Barbara Wickham
UPDATED ON FEB 26, 2021 06:32 AM IST
Greater gender equality in STEM is crucial, and in the larger interest of scientific progress and society. Currently, India is looking at a paradoxical situation where women are studying STEM subjects but there are not as many women in STEM careers.
Close
The BJP’s political dominance may, paradoxically in some ways, deepen social divisions (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)
The BJP’s political dominance may, paradoxically in some ways, deepen social divisions (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

The disruptive social effects of Hindutva 2.0

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:10 PM IST
It is the electoral hegemony of the BJP which can deepen the sense of betrayal among those who feel short-changed by the side effects of Hindutva 2.0
Close
The Chinese had earlier planned to build a series of 11 dams on the river, of which several are complete (REUTERS)
The Chinese had earlier planned to build a series of 11 dams on the river, of which several are complete (REUTERS)

The Brahmaputra is in danger. Delhi and Dhaka must challenge Beijing

By Sanjoy Hazarika
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:10 PM IST
China’s decision represents a strike at the heart of a sacred and ancient land and tampering with forces we do not fully comprehend
Close
With the SC order, Nepal has possibly averted a crisis which would have torn apart its nascent democratic system, shaken the constitutional structure, pushed the country towards prolonged political instability and led to the entrenched authoritarianism of KP Oli (REUTERS)
With the SC order, Nepal has possibly averted a crisis which would have torn apart its nascent democratic system, shaken the constitutional structure, pushed the country towards prolonged political instability and led to the entrenched authoritarianism of KP Oli (REUTERS)

Where Nepali and Indian interests meet

UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 07:12 PM IST
With the judiciary standing up to Oli, the room is open for an alternative. India must revise its approach
Close
People in custody, whether accused or convicted, must be considered a priority for the immunisation drive (Shutterstock)
People in custody, whether accused or convicted, must be considered a priority for the immunisation drive (Shutterstock)

Why India must include prisoners in its immunisation drive

By Amrita Paul
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 12:53 PM IST
Prisoners are guaranteed the right to basic health needs. As India undertakes its biggest immunisation drive, it must overcome the hurdles that exist within the system and ensure that the incarcerated are not left out
Close
An electric car charging station is positioned outside the Science Museum. (AP File Photo )
An electric car charging station is positioned outside the Science Museum. (AP File Photo )

When the fantasy of better battery science doesn’t match reality

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:39 AM IST
Car companies are fueling the hype and safety is an ongoing issue — we’re still a long way from the ideal solution for eco-friendly vehicles.
Close
Indian luxury goods have always been defined by their exceptional heritage value in that they were invariably handmade, using skills inherited over generations.
Indian luxury goods have always been defined by their exceptional heritage value in that they were invariably handmade, using skills inherited over generations.

Linking fashion, crafts and livelihood

By Ritu Kumar, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:13 AM IST
The pandemic has resulted in reduced domestic demand, shrinking exports, and unemployment. The sector needs support.
Close
India also needs to strongly step up the projection of its most laudable climate actions and bring adaptation to focus in the climate discourse. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
India also needs to strongly step up the projection of its most laudable climate actions and bring adaptation to focus in the climate discourse. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

India will have to step up climate diplomacy

By Manjeev Singh Puri
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:13 AM IST
Ministries in India are notorious for working in silos. Climate is an honourable exception with the ministries of environment and external affairs working together for years. These ministries need to be even stronger in partnership for more intensive engagement across the globe, including through coalitions that push Growth with Renewable Energy, Entrepreneurship and Nature (GREEN). The International Solar Alliance needs to add to this push.
Close
Farmers shouting slogans at the demonstration site during the ongoing protest against the new farm laws, Ghazipur , February 20 (ANI)
Farmers shouting slogans at the demonstration site during the ongoing protest against the new farm laws, Ghazipur , February 20 (ANI)

India can’t lose out on this window of economic reforms

By Gopal Krishna Agarwal
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:14 AM IST
The government is not inclined to repeal the farm laws. The responsibility of building the right narrative for it rests on all well-meaning citizens. It cannot be left to political class alone. Politics will be what it is with limitations in a democratic ecosystem. Let us all rise to the occasion.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP