Money Side Up! - The Financial Aspect of Inequality
By Aranya Sharma
India is a diverse country, with people from different backgrounds: social or economic, traditions, cultures and races. The country has had a rich cultural tradition and people come in to experience this from across the world. Despite this, the country has a grim reality of abject poverty, economic disparities and inequalities. One of the most prominent issues in the country today is poverty, which in turn gives rise to inequality because a commonly accepted argument tells us that the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. Although, this has lots of different aspects when it comes to asset acquisition and wealth creation, additionally the underlying assumption is the near zero presence of financial literacy amongst individuals. But, in a wider sense, poverty leads to inequality and thus becomes a vicious cycle. Poverty is a condition where a person/family cannot even afford two square meals a day juxtaposed with the affluence of the other world. The issue of inequality is persistent. According to several reports, the top 10% of the Indian population holds 77% of the total national wealth. 73% of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest 1%, while 67 million Indians who comprise the poorest half of the population saw only a 1% increase in their wealth. This is a particularly alarming situation for a society that is already fractured along the lines of gender inequality, religion, sexual preferences, colours and races.
The fact that millions of people in the country have lost their jobs since the onset of pandemic tells us explicitly, the compounding nature of this issue. The main contributors to this problem are lack of education and basic services, concentration of doctors in urban areas, lack of financial literacy, agrarian practices and advancing technologies. It is a reality that technological advancements favour a particular labour force with the required skill sets and leave out the other, giving rise to what we know as structural unemployment. Often, pregnant women in rural areas have to travel long distances for their deliveries and the absence of basic medical facilities in such areas also leads to a number of deaths caused by preventable conditions, annually. Through all these examples, it has come to light that inequality is not exclusive in nature, it in turn depends on a lot of other factors which have to be worked upon.
We are well acquainted with several government schemes that have been announced to combat all these issues, including the skill India program, beti bachao beti padhao, MNREGA to name a few. These schemes have largely targeted the ill-represented communities and sections of the society. But it would be intriguing to observe the ground level impact of these schemes, whether or not these have been effective and if not then what important steps have been taken in this regard.
This can be changed only if the youth is driven to make a change. Societies, other social organisations, youth foundations and NGOs can undertake initiatives like imparting financial literacy, elementary education, skills to benefit these people and thus give them additional sources of revenue.