Stiglitz On India

Samirnath Mallik

In a recent seminar on the web organised by the FICCI eastern India Chairman Rudra Chatterjee, the well-known economist Nobel laureate Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz of Columbia University has criticised the Indian Government on different fronts.

He said that India has a good population of billionaires and millionaires And the Centre can increase taxes on them for two years and spend the extra money so obtained for the poor.

Here Professor Stiglitz refers to the corporate tax of the different business houses. During 2019-2020 the corporate tax collected by the union government was about Rs 6 lakh crore with tax rate at 25 per cent. Increasing this rate by only 4 per cent say, the Government could collect an additional amount of about Rs 1 lakh crore.

Out of about 133 crore people in total, about 10 crore is estimated to be below poverty level (earning less than Rs 100). Let us take another 10 crore coming below poverty level due to pandemic crisis. For this 20 crore people the government could increase per capita income by an amount of Rs 5 thousand with this additional Rs 1 lakh crore generated by increasing the corporate tax by only 4 per cent, as calculated above. For a family of 4 members this would amount to Rs 20 thousand per year.

This increase in income of 20 crore people for two years would bring significant money in the market, causing all sorts of essential industries to flourish. It would also create new job positions for the people, on which the economy would thrive. As a result the Indian population below poverty level would shrink enormously. This is the purport of the suggestion of Professor Stiglitz on the Indian economic front.

Unfortunately the Modi government is indirectly influenced by the same billionaire and millionaire business houses whose corporate tax Professor Stiglitz suggests to increase and distribute the additional amount thus acquired among the people below the poverty level.

So they would not allow the Centre to impose this extra tax on them. This is the sad tale of poverty in India.

For one thing Maoist armed cadres extend over a broad band along the east coast covering the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Chattisgarh, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh and a few otheRs The number of districts experiencing most insurgency in these states are about 90. The tribal people living in these states are about 90. These areas are showpiece of extreme poverty. Tribals have been systematically deprived of their age-old right to forest. Corporates are looting their land- land alienation is so rampant that the so-called protective laws of British vintage now mock at themselves. Taking the average population of a district to about 12 lakh, the total population of the 90 districts where Maoists have their organisational influence comes to about 10 crore which is equivalent to the total number of people in India below poverty line.

It is a shame that India has over 10 crore people below poverty line even in this 21st century. These people are left to die in utter poverty and illiteracy. Only a fraction of India's ever growing defence budget could adequately address this abject poverty. Instead of helping these helpless people the government is strengthening its security apparatus in this vast region while arresting protesters and dissenters indiscriminately under the notorious Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), in the name of curbing Maoist insurgency. Anybody can be put behind bars under tabricated charge of maoist link. So eminent social activists like Dr Lalbaba and Father Stan Swamy have been arrested. India is increasingly becoming a big prison house for ethnic minorities, tribals, Dalits and Muslims. Repression means resistance and Maoists are likely to thrive if the government continues to silence the voice of the most oppressed and marginalised people of India. Strangely enough, official left parties have no agenda to win over this vast section of people.

Vol. 53, No. 26, Dec 28 2020 - Jan 2 2021