India world leader in unequal growth rate: Sainath
Cambridge, Massachusetts- Palagummi Sainath, India’s preeminent journalist on rural affairs and poverty, spoke on inequality and the agrarian crisis in India, in a talk jointly organized by AID, Boston and the Alliance for a democratic South Asia, Boston on September 28, 2017, in Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sainath expounded on the multifactorial causes of the agrarian crisis and the resulting rapid acceleration of India’s inequality in recent years. Citing the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, he noted that inequality growth rate in India is now the fastest in the world. The top 1% of earners in India owns 47% of its assets, while the bottom 30% own close to 0%.
He discussed how the bipartisan globalization agenda pursued by successive governments have exacerbated poverty amongst rural farmers driving many to suicide. This grim outcome has been the result of misaligned policies such as the move from subsistence farming to cash crops without sufficient grassroots support and training.
Furthermore, systemic failures to ensure farmers from the vagaries of global markets and the negative effects of globalization of agriculture, inefficient allocation of resources and credit, and the rapidly rising rural healthcare and farming costs have all been significant contributors.
Sainath also spoke of institutional apathy citing the lack of implementation of recommendations from the Swaminathan report, commissioned in the wake of media coverage of farmer suicides. He noted the worrisome interference in national data collection and dissemination as evidenced by the closure of the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) and the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) as deteriorating trends.
A packed audience was keenly engaged through the talk and posed thoughtful questions on policy implementation issues, the decline in social solidarity, effects of climate change and impediments to the empowerment of the rural poor during the Q&A session that followed.
The session moderated by AID Boston volunteer, Nitin Gujaran. AID President, Pooja Parameswaran thanked the speakers and audience members for their engaged participation and invited the audience to support AID Boston (http://www.aidboston.org) and its projects that strive to make a difference to marginalized communities in India.