Sunday, June 11, 2017

  1.        Article in the Hindu on the Income Tax notices issued to 18 lakh entities and why those deposits may not be black.

  1.  Interview published in the Pioneer on Black Economy in India: file:///C:/Users/Dr.%20Arun%20Kumar/Downloads/23ag05.pdf

  1.  Interview on black economy, globalization and Indian economy in Newslaundry:

  1. Analyzing the 6 months of Demonetization; the economy sputtering while a political dividend has accrued. In the Wire:

  1. Analyzing Arvind Subramanian’s statement of on why experts are sycophantic and that makes for poor policy making. In Catch News:
6. Article in the Indian Express suggests that the methodology that works in normal times is not applicable when the economy has suffered a shock. So, why is government still talking of 7% rate of growth

7. Article in the DNA explains the link of black money and elections in India and why voters do not seem to care about it.

8.  A more detailed article analyzing the budget than the previous one. It appeared in the Mainstream a few days back.
 It analyses why the assumptions underlying the budget arithmetic are incorrect so that the revenue projections are likely to go wrong.
Also why more should have been done to take care of the developing crisis due to demonetization.

9. Budget article in Firstpost.

 10. Wire Article on analysis of the Economic Survey

11. article on the rupture between reality and government data.

12. Firstpost article on pre-budget expectations

13. Article in the Citizen analysing the impact of demonetization on banks and pointing out that recessionary conditions are beginning to take hold.

14. Article from The Scroll points out that the government is trying to claim success by shifting goal posts but not succeeding. It is at:

15. A Hindi booklet of about 60 pages in question answer form regarding flight of capital, tax havens, etc. which we had produced last year. The link is at:

16. Article on measuring the size of the black economy in India in Economic and Political Weekly.
I have tried a different way of estimating the size of the black economy.
This piece was written much before demonetization was announced.

17. An article based on an interview in India Legal. It is a general take on demonetization – what is wrong with it and why it would not work but cause a lot of pain to the poor, etc..

18. An article in the Wire looks at why cash does not mean black and why cashless economy would not lead to less of the black economy, etc. Its link is: .

Here are two early articles on demonetization published within days of the announcement.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A social role for NITI Aayog

A social role for NITI Aayog
The Hindu, 17 January, 2015
Arun Kumar, CESP, SSS, JNU.

The NITI Aayog could throw light on long-term issues, with solutions that are not just economic or technological but also social and political — of strengthening democracy, building institutions and regaining policy space

NITI Aayog has had its first meeting with the economic experts. This was crucial since the government is trying to revive economic growth. The economy has experienced slow growth in spite of the revised national income data that has indicated faster growth. Industry, exports and so on, have shown tepid growth in recent years. The National Democratic Alliance’s electoral promise of an economic turnaround seems elusive in spite of its accelerating “reforms” by liberalising foreign direct investment (FDI) flows and land acquisition policies to signal its pro-corporate sector and big business inclinations.
Contradictory views
The budget is first a macroeconomic exercise and then a micro one catering to sectors of the economy. Two contradictory macroeconomic views are emerging from the government and its policy advisers. This is similar to the policy dilemma that the United Progressive Alliance faced earlier. The first view is to have a larger fiscal deficit so as to boost demand. The other view is to cut the fiscal deficit to keep the credit rating agencies (proxy for financial interests) happy so as to prevent a downgrade of the economy.
The Finance Minister favours the latter view and argues that a fiscal deficit imposes a burden on future generations who will have to repay the debt. This conservative view assumes that resources are constrained, so if the government spends more, the private sector has less to spend. But that cannot be true when the economy has spare capacity and can produce more. Increased government expenditures then boost the economy and lead to more investments via the accelerator. If increased spending is financed by increased direct taxation, that is even better. This is feasible in India since direct taxes are around 7 per cent of GDP which is low when compared to most other countries. But a government trying to signal its pro-business inclination would not wish to raise direct taxes like income, corporation and wealth taxes. 
Actually, tax rates need not be raised but only the concessions given in taxes (these are called tax expenditures and amount to 4.5 per cent of GDP) need to be curtailed to get more resources. But this may also be seen as anti-business. The other possibility is to tap the black economy (more than 50 per cent of GDP, according to me.) This requires political will which is not yet visible. The business community, the largest generator of black incomes, would see this also as anti business — it has been opposing introduction of general anti avoidance rules (GAAR). Even if the economy grows faster due to the reduction of the size of the black economy and businessmen gain, they fear it since a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
The NITI Aayog meeting does not seem to have considered these deeper issues. Advice was sought from former bureaucrats, journalists, industry lobbyists and academics. Media reports suggest a lack of coherence in the discussion or in the advice given. Some of the invitees had been present in the Finance Ministry pre-budget meeting last month. So, what was the point of the meeting now when it did not lead to clarity on long-term issues? Further, the time for incorporation of policies in the budget is over since most of it would have been formulated by now. It may have been better to circulate for comments a discussion paper on the Indian economy’s slowdown and its global interlinkages.
Dilemma with global echoes
India’s current economic dilemma has global roots. The eurozone, Japan and Russia are in trouble, the Chinese economy has slowed down and the U.S. economy is the only big one that has improved. In such a scenario, increasing exports in a big way would be difficult. Declining commodity prices (like that of petroleum goods) signal a weakening global economy. Uncertainty is deepened by the arc of instability due to failing states, from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria to East Africa. The war in Ukraine and the rise of IS are compounding the problem.
Greece threatens the economic stability of the eurozone. The new government there is defying the dictates from the world of finance and has promised to end the austerity regime hoisted on the people of Greece. The Greek Prime Minister is telling the European powers that the economic rules of integration of the weaker economies of Europe into the eurozone need change. He is arguing that a substantial portion of the debt resulting from the earlier wrong policies needs to be written off. The other troubled economies of Europe — Portugal, Spain and Italy — are under increasing political pressure to follow Greece’s example.
U.S. President Barack Obama has proposed increasing taxation of the rich while giving more to the middle classes to reverse the growing inequity there. This move not only has a political strategy underlying it but also economic reasons that favour it. Given the Republican domination in the legislature and their conservative inclinations, it is unlikely that this proposal would be accepted any time soon. But, other countries would be forced to think about the idea, especially in the context of the developments in Greece.
In 2011, Mr. Warren Buffett gave a call to tax the rich more not only for the sake of equity but also to tackle the global economic crisis. This call was picked up in Europe with 16 of the wealthiest French urging their government to tax them more. Fifty wealthy Germans backed this petition. In Italy, the chief of Ferrari also lent support.
Inequity has grown in most countries since the mid-1970s following the domination of global financial capital over policies — spearheaded by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These policies have not only marginalised other sectors of the economy but also promoted bubble economies that are prone to periodic collapse as it happened beginning 2007 and from which the world economy has yet to fully recover.
These policies promoted shadow banking and all manner of opaque financial instruments that created economic instability. A casino economy emerged with speculation leading to a fictitious boost in paper wealth, promoting a false sense of well-being among individuals and increased consumption by them. As inequality increased dramatically, and there was the marginalisation of the vast majority, there followed the “Occupy Wall Street movement”, termed as the “99% v the 1%” and which also popularised the term, “Main street versus Wall street”.
For people policies
Events in Greece and Mr. Obama’s suggestion suggest that the time has come to end the domination of finance capital over the rest of society. Policy space has to be recaptured from the world of finance by the democratic forces so that policies favouring the people can be initiated.
The dilemma currently facing Indian policymakers reflects these global trends. India’s rightward drift started with the Emergency in 1975 when Sanjay Gandhi marginalised the left of Centre thinking in the Indira Gandhi government. The trend continued during the Janata regime and thereafter under the Indira Gandhi government which had to approach the IMF for adjustment in 1980. Rajiv Gandhi, under considerable influence of the liberalisers, pushed this tendency faster. With the New Economic Policies in 1991 and the emergence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, there was a paradigm change, with the policies of finance capital becoming entrenched.
For India, which remains very poor and very unequal, policies based on the interest of finance capital and a narrow section of society can only spell disaster. These policies push markets and technology-based solutions which marginalise the individual. The underlying idea is that if making democracy work is difficult, substitute it with technology. Those lacking faith in democracy and social institutions are (in the name of the poor) pushing an autocratic agenda based on greater use of technology. The hard work of creating and nurturing institutions that can deliver to the people and strengthen democracy is sought to be circumvented. So, one of the key proposals today is to push Goods and Services Tax (GST) even if it does not suit the needs of the vast unorganised sectors of our economy and benefits the MNCs and big business. The hard work of making taxation simple and effective and shifting to direct taxes is hardly on the agenda. Creating a large number of jobs is secondary to cash transfers, bullet trains for the elite and smart cities for the upwardly mobile.
The flyovers of Delhi were built to ensure smooth traffic flow but now have speed bumps to slow down vehicles and which leads to jams. The technological solution failed because the institutional design of management of urban traffic is flawed and that is because policymakers did not go deeper into the problem in their urge to provide quick fix technological solutions. The NITI Aayog could throw light on such long-term issues (with solutions that are not just economic or technological but also social and political) of strengthening democracy, building institutions, regaining policy space and so on.

Friday, January 9, 2015

When accountability is not institutional

When accountability is not institutional
The Hindu, Updated: January 8, 2015
Arun Kumar, CESP, SSS, JNU

Higher education in India suffers from a lack of a democratic leadership that understands its true nature. For those heading academic institutions, accountability is personal and not institutional or societal. The erosion of autonomy and accountability in centres of education is the biggest challenge an aspirational and rising India faces
The Director of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, has resigned because he was sought to be marginalised by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD). The faculty and alumni of IIT have come out in his support but the issue festers. Unfortunately, this has little to do with the real problem facing IITs — a lack of adequate faculty and little cutting-edge research. Even before the indiscriminate expansion of the IITs began, these institutes faced a shortage of faculty; at times to the extent of 40 per cent. The IITs face a reverse filtration of talent. The best obtain a B.Tech degree and either leave for foreign shores or move on to study management. The second best continue pursuing higher degrees which in turn leads to a weak research programme. Like IIT Delhi, other institutions of higher education in the capital have also been in the throes of crisis.
The country’s best university, Delhi University, has been in a state of turmoil for several years. Its vice-chancellor, who has been responsible for this continues in spite of accusations of wrongdoing. His presence is demoralising for academic staff and the student community. Since a university is not about its buildings but crucially its students and faculty, their alienation damages the institution irreparably.
The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) faces a crisis because the earlier vice-chancellor recklessly expanded its scope. While this provides a false sense of dynamism, for an institution of higher learning, this spells trouble since it is almost next to impossible to get good faculty in a short period of time. Dependence on outside experts for courses is problematic since they do not bear primary responsibility. The vice-chancellor, accused of wrongdoing, is under investigation.
Autonomy being eroded

These are not isolated institutional problems. They are generic in nature and can be found to exist in different degrees in almost all institutions. What plagues Delhi University once prevailed at Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. A shortage of faculty and the use of ad hoc teachers affects almost all universities. The key problems confronting higher education in India are quality, equity, access and financing. In the last 10 years, there has been a massive ad hoc expansion of Central Universities, IITs and Indian Institutes of Management resulting in a shortage of faculty by 40 to 50 per cent. Established older institutions are doing a bit better but not much since about 33 per cent of the positions at Delhi University and JNU lie vacant. Shortage by itself does not reflect the extent of the problem since quality of faculty is crucial. Appointment of ad hoc teachers at salaries close to minimum wages and for years at a stretch is demoralising and results in a deterioration in quality. Our education system is plagued by the separation of teaching and research. Knowledge is largely acquired through rote learning of notes or reading books that are a “cut-and-paste job”. Thus, understanding is at a discount. Consequently, many Indian intellectuals tend to be “derived intellectuals”, recycling knowledge from the West. Exams are mechanically passed by “mugging up” material which is then promptly forgotten. Knowledge is neither assimilated nor converted into wisdom. The result is that the system largely produces people with indifferent quality and where industry complains of a lack of skills.

The highest National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC)-rated university, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), faces declining standards of research. The university, whose raison d’ĂȘtre was research, confronts growing instances of plagiarism because those in authority brush it under the carpet. The problem is being dealt with mechanically by providing software. Instead, the real problem is the breakdown in trust between student and teacher. Many students have little time to spend on their dissertation since they are working elsewhere and/or preparing for competitive examinations.
Some faculty in order to be popular dilute standards and supervise three or four times the number of research students prescribed under University Grants Commission (UGC) norms. There are others who run non-governmental organisations and institutions outside JNU. The result is a conflict of interest and where academics with little time for research supervision allow anything to pass. There is a lack of leadership at JNU but this is true of other institutions also where decisions are not made on time.
“The claim that India has arrived on the world stage rings hollow without an independent technology base”
All this is symptomatic of a lack of a vision of higher education in the entire system — from the Ministry to the UGC to the institutions of higher learning. The Ministry and the UGC expect their diktat to run, little realising that their demands from these institutions may not suit all. “One size fits all” and “standardisation to achieve standards” is anathema to higher education. Such prescriptions damage the better institutions as has been the case with the introduction of the mechanical Academic Performance Indicator (API)-based recruitment and promotions. Rather than ensuring quality, this move has led to the emergence of poor quality journals, conferences and so on and the promotion of mediocrity. It is undermining the autonomy of academics which is crucial in fostering accountability to the long-term interest of society.
The HRD Minister’s conclave with the vice-chancellors of the Central Universities in September suggested fundamental changes in the running of these universities. Since the Central Universities are some of the premier universities in the country, what they do becomes the model for other universities. Therefore, it is important to know whether what was discussed would help resolve the problems of these universities. The same vice-chancellors who created the problems described earlier are now heading the committees working on the proposed changes.
Apparently, a council of the vice-chancellors of the Central Universities, with the Minister of HRD heading it, has been proposed. In addition, all the Central Universities are to be brought under a common Act, there is to be a common curriculum, a teacher’s recruitment board, transferability of students among these universities and so on. If any of this is implemented, the autonomy of Central Universities will be severely eroded. This was the programme of the United Progressive Alliance government and is perhaps being pursued because the bureaucrats of the Ministry are driving the agenda.
Key problems
Good faculty are reluctant to join newer institutions as they lack infrastructure and because many of them are in remote areas. Transferability of teachers across Central Universities can only spread good academics thin and lead to a deterioration of quality in established universities. In an authoritarian system, this can be used to punish teachers by posting them to remote areas, thus undermining autonomy and leading to sycophancy.
When transferred to weak institutions, good academics could become demoralised. Sending weak academics to good institutions may not lead to their betterment but could result in a deterioration of quality in these institutions. Good students would not transfer to weak institutions but poor quality students would want to migrate to good institutions and this could lead to corruption.
Teaching and research
Independent intellectuals are seen as being troublemakers and are harassed. Mediocre academics, realising that they cannot excel academically, resort to petty politicking and/or become sycophants of those in power in order to climb the ladder. Those at the top take the support of the latter group and adopt the principle, “show me the face I show you the rule” It is this group that violates rules secure in the knowledge that the authorities will not act against them. They bring a bad name to higher education and erode the accountability of the institution.
The government has announced a slew of programmes like ‘Make in India’ which depends heavily on a strong research and development capability which in turn requires a dynamic system of higher education. The claim that India has arrived on the world stage rings hollow without an independent technology base. It is no wonder then that we are forced to borrow technology from China for bullet trains or ask the U.S. to help clean our cities. The ‘Swachh Bharat’, ‘Clean Ganga’ and other such campaigns require citizenship which a democratic and inclusive education system can deliver but a purely formal education system cannot. Unless the crisis in higher education is tackled, the government’s best laid plans can be derailed.
In brief, higher education in India suffers from a lack of a democratic leadership that understands its true nature. Those heading these institutions are usually the favourites of those in power (political or money). They largely implement the agenda of their masters and, therefore, do not feel the need to be accountable to the academic community. To them, accountability is personal and not institutional or societal. They undermine the autonomy of the democratic bodies of universities, like the academic council through threats and inducements. Some institutions have no unions that can balance the autocratic behaviour of their heads. Thus, the erosion of the autonomy and accountability in institutions of higher learning is both from within and without. This is the biggest challenge before an India that aspires to arrive on the world stage.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Has the Quest for Equity become Irrelevant in India?

Has the Quest for Equity become Irrelevant in India?
Arun Kumar, Sukhamoy Chakravarty Chair Professor, CESP, SSS, JNU.
Yusuf Meherally Memorial Lecture at GPF, Sept 23, 2014. 

Yusuf Meherally was in the vanguard of India's struggle for independence who played a leading role in peasants' organisations and trade unions. He was imprisoned eight times during the freedom movement. The 'Quit India' slogan coined by him was adopted by Gandhiji for India's final Nationwide campaign for independence. One of the founders of the Congress Socialist Party, Yusuf Meherally wrote, "I hate ugliness and cruelty and that is why I am a socialist. My socialism is based on aesthetic and ethical premises and not on Economics."  In the words of late Dr. Zakir Hussain, the Vice President of India, "It was the primeval sorrow of Man for what Men do to each other, knowingly or unknowingly, which moved him … ." ( It is this philosophy and the growing all round inequity in society that made me choose the topic of this talk.
Historically, most societies known to us have had disparities whether looked at in terms of living standards or other aspects of life. Earlier, the differentiation between various groups of people was less for many reasons but perhaps above all because there was a greater sense of justice associated with equity due to the higher value attached with community life which seems to have eroded over time. Atomization and alienation of individuals are responsible for this decline and led to a greater acceptance of inequity in society.
Disparities are of course multi-dimensional with political, social, historical, cultural, geographical, economic, etc., factors contributing to them. These reflect themselves in differences in living conditions (including housing), access to health and education, in environmental factors or differentiation in incomes and wealth, etc. The differentiation may manifest itself in terms of gender, class, community and caste. All this gets embedded in social consciousness and, therefore, inequality takes societal, cultural and civilizational forms. Consequently, inequality becomes difficult to tackle (reduce) or deal with.
Present day India is characterized by growing inequality (See Graph I). On the one hand, we have the largest number of poor people in the world and on the other hand, we have a large number of billionaires. The number of billionaires is larger than in many other much richer countries than us. We also have the largest number of malnourished and the largest number of illiterate people in the World. Inequality across the nation is also substantial with regional disparities growing over time (Table 1).
II.1.     National Developments
Is equity in society a natural state of affairs? History tells us that is not so. Equity is a social construct and each society has had its own ideas about it. In India, during the colonial rule, there was not only extreme poverty among the masses but society had become highly iniquitous with a small well off elite class created by the colonial masters to rule the country. After independence in 1947, society strove to not only eliminate poverty but also reduce inequity. Government was given a large role in this and policies were pursued to achieve these ends. The policy paradigm adopted in 1947 had the underlying view that individuals are not responsible for their problems of poverty, illiteracy, ill-health, etc. These were seen to be the result of social processes hence characterized as social problems which had to be solved by the nation as a whole (Kumar, 2013). These tendencies need to be understood in a historical context.

II.1.1 Colonization, Disruption of Society and Present Day Inequity
Just like biological systems are determined by their genetic make up, societies are conditioned by their history. However, there is no determinism since people can change the course of society because they are conscious beings and not automatons. But change in social consciousness is often slow so that social change also takes place gradually unless there are revolutionary times.
Societies in the developing world were disrupted by colonization and India was no exception with its colonization beginning around 1750. This left a deep mark on Indian society; its social dynamics was disrupted by the colonial masters to suit their own ends of control and exploitation. It linked the Indian elite to interest of the foreigner rulers and distanced them from the common people of India. As Macaulay said in his Minutes of 1835 that there was a need for a class intermediate between the rulers and the common people of India. There was a hegemonization of the thinking of the Indian elite. The impact of disruption was on every aspect of Indian society. Agriculture, industry, education, etc., were all impacted and the effect persisted after independence (Kumar, 2013). Society as a whole lost dynamism.
The knowledge base of society and its understanding of itself become dependent on that propagated by the colonizer. Even after independence, the nation has substantially depended on knowledge generated in the advanced countries. Thus, Indian intellectuals have become largely `derived intellectuals’. There is a continuing loss of value of ideas and curtailment of creativity.
Consequently, the leadership at the time of independence was enamored of western modernity and wanted to copy it quickly. This bias introduced contradiction in government’s policies with the ruling elite in pursuit of western modernity going for a top down model of development. This marginalized the vast majority and aggravated inequality. Thus, while the government paid lip service to the poor and to equity in society, its overall policies did not work to reduce inequality in society even though specific policies were supposedly working in favour of the poor. The former dominated while the latter could not achieve their goals.
The growing black economy undermined all policies – marco and micro – so that general development was set back with consequent ill effects for the marginalized. Policy failure due to both the top down approach and the growing black economy was visible from the mid 1960s. This only worsened as the years rolled on with the downgrading of planning and the failure of the public sector to mobilize resources. The final nail in the coffin for the state dominated economic policies came with the Iraq crisis in 1989. India found itself in a debt trap in 1989 due to its embracing massive consumerism in the 1980s based on imported goods (especially, petro products). The foreign debt rose from $10 billion in 1980 to $ 90 billion in 1990.
The crisis starting in 1989 led to a shift in policy paradigm in 1991 to `marketization’ (See Section V). While markets always existed, marketization was new. The state retreated in favour of capital with `market friendly state intervention’. Solutions to problems lay in the market – removal of poverty, employment, education and health. Individuals had to accept blame for their own problems and society was largely absolved of its responsibility. However, after the collapse of the South East Asian Tiger economies in 1997, this was called `crony capitalism’ and the World Bank changed its line to a pure market based growth strategy called `growth at any cost’. The US economy was booming on the back of the asset bubble in the financial markets. The Fed chief, Alan Greenspan, pronounced that `markets are self correcting’ and there is no need to intervene in them.(The Age of Turbulence:2007, not sure, but in this book he has presented this ideology as per the sources on the internet). Government of India also pursued this strategy and under it, all costs have fallen on the workers and the environment. This has aggravated inequality further.

II.2      Global Developments
Rising inequity since the mid-1970s is a global phenomenon (Picketty, 2014).  The welfare state put into place after World War II, following Keynesian prescription faced the crisis of stagflation after the mid-1960s. Consequently, these policies were largely replaced by the neo-liberal economic paradigm. Mrs. Thatcher came to power in 1978 and argued that `There is no alternative’ (TINA) and attacked the Trade Unions. Mr. Reagan became the President of the USA in 1980 and he pushed these policies. Given the weight of these countries in the institutions of global governance, like, the IMF and the World Bank, these institutions also pushed the developing world to adopt more conservative, market based policies which came to be known as the Washington Consensus (Williamson 1989).
Globally there was a shift in the strategic balance which aided this process of Anglo-American domination. With the passing away of Mao in 1976, Deng  Xiaoping came to power and he moved China’s economic policy paradigm to Capitalist policies under an authoritarian regime and called it Socialism with a difference.
Soviet Union which used to help the developing countries balance the pressures from the Western powers itself started to falter from the mid-1970s due to growing inefficiencies and corruption. From 1980, when Reagan announced the Star War programme, the collapse of the Soviet economy set in. The weight of defense expenditure became too much for them to sustain. By the mid-1980s it was clear that the developing countries would have to deal with the Western powers on their own and India was no exception. Thus, the Western powers were emboldened to introduce the new issues in GATT in the Uruguay Round of negotiations in 1986. The collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989 was sudden and capitalism become dominant.
The rapid growth in some of the poor countries like, China and India and the rise of the South East Asian economies has meant that across countries, disparities have declined in the last 25 years. However, in each country the disparities have increased. Thus, if disparity is measured globally between the top 1% and the bottom 50%, they have risen (Picketty, 2014). These trends have had their impact on India.

All important religions and philosophies talk of equality among people. Our Constitution talks of equality of all before law. Why then does it not come about? People are born equal (except when there are genetic problems) with the same social potentialities but it is in terms of their social existence, they become unequal. The potentialities of individuals get modified by social processes – where one is born, the social status of the family and so on. These become the sources of inequality in society. Even if there are natural differences amongst different people, it depends on society whether they would be treated as equal or if not, how unequal.
Treating everyone as equal even when people are recognized as have varying capabilities as per different attributes of life is an absolutist idea. The dominant sections decide on who gets what status and for their own benefit create divisions/hierarchies. This is justified as a `natural’ division to lend legitimacy to their view of society. Their notion of justice is also based on such views.
Even the oppressed or the victims of the system largely accept it as `just’. For instance, in the present day male dominated world, successful women also adopt the male centric values of society and implicitly accept them as a natural state of affairs. Similarly, in the Indian caste ridden society, the oppressed, like, the Dalits, adopt upper caste norms.
Equity is a relative idea which specifically recognizes the differences amongst individuals. According to principle of equity, equals should be treated alike while unequals need to be treated unequally. For instance, two individuals with the same level of income should pay the same amount of tax. Those with different levels of income ought to pay different amounts of tax. How unequal should the treatment of unequals be is for society to decide. There is no one rule for it since different societies value equity differently – some more and others less.

III.1     Wider Context – Social, Political and Economic
Features affecting our notions of equality/equity are not just economic but also social, political, cultural, linguistic, ecological and so on. Change comes through change in social consciousness and not just through the good intentions of the rulers.
Societies are not in a stationary state and are buffeted by new ideas and influences from outside so that they keep responding to different factors. Existence of inequity and changes in it are both causes of tensions in society. Any time there is change in the prevailing level of inequity in society, there is a build up of tension. Whether it is an increase or a decrease in the prevailing levels of inequity there is resistance from those who lose out. Both existence of inequity and changes in it can disturb social harmony.
All known societies have had various degrees of inequity. At times, societies seem to accept inequalities easily and without disturbing their functioning. Keynes (1936) and Hicks (1974)have pointed out that a historically given income differentiation amongst the various groups does not lead to big social conflict while rapid changes in does so.
The acceptability of a historically given income ladder is perhaps reinforced in a variety of ways. If society attaches a notion of justice with the prevailing income disparity, it becomes socially acceptable. Rapid changes in income relativities would then be seen by those who are losing out as unjust and resisted.
In post independence India, income relativities have been disturbed significantly. The nature of the elite changed and businesses started playing a more dominant role. In a democracy, like, in India, those in control of larger numbers also played a significant role and tried to get a larger share of the national pie. The peasantry/ rich farmers fall in this category. The judiciary and the executive consisting of the police and the bureaucracy (who were essential to the colonial rulers for their continued hold over the country and hence constituted the elite of the country) slowly lost out to these upcoming groups. There was a reaction to this via the instrumentality of the black economy.

III.1.1  Material Aspects of Social Progress
Economists have principally used income distribution to measure disparities in society believing it to be the principal manifestation of inequality. It correlates well with the other economic parameters that signify inequality. However, it may not be able to explain other social, political and cultural aspects of inequality. Like, in India, disparities based on incomes need to be supplemented by the caste and community factors.
In spite of these limitations, traditionally, economists have principally measured disparities in terms of skewdness of incomes. More recently, there have been attempts to take into account multi-dimensional factors by constructing indices like, the human development indices but as is usually the case, they suffer from a certain degree of arbitrariness about the weights attached to their different components. Of course, different societies may view each factor differently and assign different weights making inter-society comparisons difficult. Even in income terms, comparisons across nations may be difficult since the exchange rate used may have a degree of arbitrariness.
In brief, while inequality has many dimensions, today it is taken to refer largely to the material dimension. The question is whether material progress can be the sole yardstick of progress.
The present age is one of selling everything from self to one’s reputation to the Taj Mahal (Bunty and Bubbly style). Advertisers depend on creating a feeling of dissatisfaction amongst the people and especially the young; contentedness amongst individuals is a casualty. Sex and violence are used to sell products and this both commercializes them and also creates a sense of dissatisfaction in people. Hence material progress is disjointed from being happy. Notions of freedom are used to justify any checks on irresponsible advertising. People are posited to be strong and able to discriminate between what is or is not good for them. However, the entire exercise of advertising is to weaken people and catch them at their weakest. Its psychological impact on people, especially children, needs careful analysis.
Since the purely material possession devoid of other attributes can only give momentary satisfaction, the purely economistic view of society results in short termism. It leads to a disjuncture between society’s long run (and existence itself) and short termism of the individual with severe consequences for Humankind.

The Indian economy started to open indiscriminately with the New Economic Policies (NEP) launched in 1991. While its exports and imports as a per cent of GDP in 1991 were around 7% (roughly the figures for the USA, Japan and China) now these numbers have risen to about 20%.
As already argued, NEP led to a paradigm change in policies. The market has taken over from the state and is playing a leading role in the growth process. This has meant giving concessions to capital and ignoring the distributional consequences of policies. As pointed out in Kumar (2007a) there is a simple dichotomy playing itself out between agriculture and non-agriculture.
Since 1991, while agriculture grew at about  3.1 per cent per annum, non-agriculture has grown at around 7.5 per cent. While agriculture still employs more than 50% of the work force, its GDP share is only 14%. In contrast, the Services sector employs 30% of the work force but it contributes more than 60% of the GDP. Thus, those in agriculture are the majority but marginalized in national income. Since agriculture is concentrated in rural areas and services in the urban areas, this disparity is leading to a growing rural-urban divide. Further, since the backward states are predominantly agricultural, they are lagging behind the advanced states which have a dominant contribution to the services sector. Finally, since agriculture employs largely unorganized workers there is a growing divide between the unorganized and the organized sectors (Kumar, 2007a). It is accentuating the disparities between the top 3 per cent (elite) and the bottom 40 per cent broadly those around the poverty line. (Graph II shows that the decadal rate of growth was unchanged).
The growing disparity is also based on the post 1991 concentration of resources in the hands of the private corporate sector which is investing in the organized sector and mostly in the advanced states except recently when it is investing in buying out natural resources. Thus, agriculture is receiving hardly 10% of the investment (for 50% of the work force) and is lagging behind in productivity and wages. It is hardly generating new jobs (Kumar, 2005a). In contrast, the corporate sector is investing but in capital intensive activities and is, therefore, shedding jobs in a kind of jobless growth. Consequently, overall, few jobs are being generated and this is resulting in rising under employment.
Growing problems of employment generation and rising disparities have led to increased political and social instabilities in India. There have been violent protests against land acquisition for projects and setting up of SEZs. Agitations for reservations and affirmative action have often turned violent since the government is seen as non-responsive and pro-corporate sector. Growing corruption has added to a loss of faith in the government which is seen to be working against the poor and in favour of the rich and the corrupt.
To correct its image, government has been forced to go in for programmes for the support of the poor like, rural employment generation (MGNREG), right to food, right to education, mid day meal scheme in schools, loan waiver for poor farmers and so on.
However, as Graph II shows, spurts in growth since 1991 have been short lived.

Globalization is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on for a long time. India has traded with S E Asia, Arab countries and so on for thousands of years. Buddhism went from India two thousand years back and that is also globalization. The coming of the British was also globalization. But it was a two way process till the British colonized India starting 1750. That is when globalization became a one-way process with severe impact on the dynamism of Indian society.

V.1      Disparities and Marketization
As mentioned above, data indicate, the process of marketization of society has led to growing economic disparities in India since 1991. The pre existing disparities have worsened. While economic growth accelerated in the Eighties and went up from an average rate of growth of 3.7% between 1950/51 to 1980/81 to 5.3% in the Eighties, disparities remained in check. In the Nineties, this rate of growth was maintained but with rising disparities (Kumar, 2005b). After 2001/02, the rate of growth accelerated further to about 8.5% for 5 years but the disparities increased even faster (Kumar, 2007a). 
It needs to be clarified that markets are an institution of exchange of goods and services and have always existed. It is the process of marketization that is new. It leads to the penetration of market philosophy into every sphere of human activity and the guiding factor of social institutions. Markets are considered to be `objective’ and society as `subjective’. Thus, it leads to the advance of the former and the retreat of the latter.

V.2      Principles Underlying Marketization
Why does marketization result in growing disparities? First, markets in themselves are devoid of values which come from society. It is society which decides implicitly or explicitly what level of inequity or equity it should have. As society retreats and markets advance, judgments about equity become less important. Free competitive markets by themselves cannot deliver equity. It is well known that they are consistent with complete inequity with one having all and the rest nothing.
Second, markets are based on `dollar vote’. Purchasing power of the individual is what counts and not `one person one vote’. The outcomes of the market depend on the former and not the latter. This results in the `marginalization of the marginal’, that is, the less purchasing power one has the less one can influence the outcome of the markets. This operates at the international, national and regional terms accentuating disparities at all these levels.
Third, the notion of welfare under the markets is based on the idea that `more is better’ and leads to consumerism. This leads to demand for higher incomes to enable greater consumption. It justifies consumerism but that leads to environmental problems which affect the poor more than the well off and aggravate disparities through health effects (Kumar, 2006b). This principle also implies that sacrifice is stupidity so equity through transfers should be resisted and cannot be considered to be welfare enhancing.
Fourth, the market notion of `let prices prevail’ is used to justify the retreat of the state. Thus, in the labour market minimum wage laws are diluted and unemployment dole is frowned upon. Subsidies are considered to be distorting so they need to be withdrawn. This impacts prices of basic goods and the welfare of the poor since they are able to afford less of them. In fact, unemployment is considered to be desirable as a means of disciplining labour and this accentuates disparities by causing a downward pressure on wages.
The marketization process results in basic philosophical changes in society. The free goods of nature or the non-marketized aspects of life are marketized, like, beaches, rivers, common areas, etc. This leads to a deterioration of the situation of the income poor who could otherwise get some sustenance from these free goods (Kumar, 1997).
Fifth, marketization has led to a new international division of labour, with polluting industries relocating in the developing world and clean technology production concentrated in the advanced countries, reducing their pollution levels. Larry Summers argued that it is more efficient for people to die due to pollution in the developing world (The Economist, February 8, 1992) hence polluting industries should relocate in the developing countries.
Sixth, marketization has led to the notion of people as homo-economicus and `rational individuals’ working solely to maximize their profits. They are atomistic individuals. Optimization has become an important tool in Economics. There are benefits and losses of every action of economic agents and they optimize their gains to improve their welfare. There are no absolutes and everything becomes relative. There is an optimum level of smuggling, tax evasion and so on so the existence of ills of society are justified and need to be tolerated as rational. Hence principles are less important today.
Atomization of individuals has led to wider impact on thinking in society. In modern medicine a person is not a whole but parts and dehumanized. In modern education, people are a resource, like, a mineral. They are basically, a prerequisite for production. Education is referred to as Human Resource Development or human capital formation.
In such a framework, with things becoming relative, no stand on social issues need be taken by the individual. World is for enjoyment and not denial which is a cost to the individual. Since profit maximization requires minimization of costs, feeling of guilt has to be minimized. Consequently, taking a stand in favour of greater equity would mean sacrifice and it should be avoided by rational individuals.
These philosophical changes lead to the acceptance of the idea that the poor themselves and not society are responsible for their poverty. This makes inequalities acceptable. In this line of argument, it does not matter that markets fail and have done so more and more. The ideology of the `free market' which helps the better off sections is used to justify their privileges in society and to further them. The marginalized and the less marketized sections of the population fall behind due to marketization and resent this change.
Thus, it is clear that the degree of marketization in society stands in direct opposition to the extent of socialization or the public good nature of many activities. While the former helps the well off sections and the latter gives support to the marginalized but that is on the decline under pressure of marketization. Globalization has narrowed the space for pro-poor policies

Under Capitalism, the biggest inequality is between wages and profits and not amongst wage earners. As the degree of monopoly rises, so does this gap. As capital gets concentrated in fewer hands and labour gets weakened, the degree of monopoly rises. Capital is able to push for policies favourable to itself. International finance capital has come to dominate policies globally and earn vast sums of profits.
The macroeconomic environment to promote growth, increase investment and exports has been weighed in favour of capital since 1991 and even before that since 1980 when India went to the IMF for loans to meet its balance of payment difficulties. This has led to a rise in the share of profits in the economy and led to greater inequality.
As the share of profits has increased, demand has to be generated by increasing investments. Even export demand has to be generated by holding down wages. Demand from the middle classes and the well off has to be based on creating asset bubbles like we witnessed in the 1990s and the 2000s up to 2006. None of this is a stable solution for growth but all of them lead to greater inequality.

VI.1     Inequality Leads to More Inequality
Economic growth has come to depend on the actions of the capitalist elite. Mobility of capital has helped it to extract concessions from different countries. Thus, taxes in country after country have been lowered in order to attract capital. Labour laws have been diluted across countries for the same reason. Within different countries too, capital has been able to extract concessions from society on the ground that it is the source of growth. Belief in welfare state has been replaced by an exclusivist and elitist model of development. Thus, inequality has become the cause of more of it.
But, long term growth can not be sustained on the basis of creating an increasingly unequal society. The global economic crisis starting in 2007 also followed growing inequity in each country and in the world as a whole.

VI.2     Public Policy and Equity: Fiscal Policies and Public Goods
Governments have had a close association with businesses but under the weight of globalization and the World Bank prescription of `market friendly state intervention’ they have become more closely integrated with businesses. So, Japan is called `Japan Inc.’ and in India too post 1991, we have become Indian incorporated. Crony capitalism and the associated corruption have been one aspect of this growing closeness between the businessmen and the politicians.
Democracy has been truncated in country after country. During the recent global economic crisis the `Wall Street’ dominated over the `Main Street’ and that led to the revolt of the 99% against the 1%. People in country after country have lost their right to choose their path of development. International Finance Capital is deciding that by propagating the notion of market `efficiency’. Thus, national rules are subservient to the global demands of WTO provisions. India’s food security or patent laws have to be as per the dictates of global capital.
For the Indian elite, globalization implies linking with the elite in the developed world. The emotional attachment with the nation is greatly diluted so that many of them have voted with their feet, becoming Non-resident Indians and taking their capital abroad rather than investing in their own capital short nation. The Social Contract has been shattered. The State with a monopoly over violence has used it with a heavy hand against all those who protest so that capital can be appeased.
Equity through taxation has been diluted due to concessions in direct taxes. There has been talk of replacing direct taxes by VAT or moving from progressive taxation to proportionate taxes. Both these shift the focus of taxation from making post tax income distribution more equitable to less equitable. Large concessions on property income had any way dented the progressivity of taxes on high incomes (Kumar, 2013). The number of public goods that generated some equity have also been reduced and now the emphasis is on shifting to the levy of `user charges’ for public goods.
In brief, the content of public policy for creating a more equitable society has declined over the last 25 years.

VI.3     Black Economy and Equity – From the Social Realm to the Individual.
The growing black economy implies rising illegality and is anti-social. It is currently estimated to be around 50% of GDP in India so is both systematic and systemic. It is concentrated in the hands of 3% of Indians and results in huge additional inequity which is not captured in data (Kumar, 1999:75-78). So, in 1995-96, the disparity between the top 3% and bottom 40% in the income ladder was 12:1 in the white economy it became 57:1 if the black economy is included. So, the real disparity in society is a result of the black economy. It makes social action difficult by leading to growing alienation of individuals.
The inequity due to growing black economy is not captured in the official data. This is true globally and especially in the developing economies. Typically, the black economy is concentrated in the hands of the already rich, the profit earners who try to increase their incomes by illegal means. They share a fraction of this, as in India, with the other elite sections of society, like, the politicians, the bureaucracy, the police and the judiciary (Kumar, 1999).
The black economy leads to policy failure and social waste. It results in less of tax collection and, therefore, to shortage of resources for development and lower expenditures on essentials like, health and education. Further, the money sent for development is siphoned out and that makes expenditures less effective. Consequently, expenditures do not lead to outcomes. Often due to it, resources are wasted, like, roads are poorly made and repeatedly repaired rather than new roads built. Thus, the rate of growth is shown to be less than the potential rate of growth by 5% due to the existence of the black economy (Kumar, 2005c). The Indian economy instead of being a $1.8 trillion economy could have been a $14 trillion economy this year. Thus, roughly $12 trillion of development is being missed out every year. This is a major cause of the growing inequity.
Globally, black incomes earners are using tax havens to both take their capital out of their national territories as well as round trip it back to their countries. The tax havens are also used by the corporate sector to siphon profits out of the developing countries via transfer pricing or under and over invoicing of exports and imports. Illicit flow of funds from India has resulted in loss of opportunity of about $1.2 trillion since 1948. The MNCs like, Amazon, Google, Apple, etc., are taking billions of dollars of profits out of the USA to Ireland.
Illegality is also damaging the environment in severe ways and the impact of this degradation of the environment falls disproportionately on the poor through attack on their employment opportunities and health.
Since the black economy is illegal it moves economic activity out of the realm of the collective and into the hands of the individuals. Mobility of capital has made the situation more complex and enabled capital to evade government actions. This has become a major cause of the growing inequality globally and in each of the nations.

The black economy operates by subverting democracy in the nation. Political parties represent the interest of vested interests rather than the interest of the citizens from whom they get the vote. The leadership of almost all political parties across the ideological spectrum have been accused of corruption and a party to the subversion of democracy.
Democracy has become formalistic. Choice for the people is restricted to voting for one or the other corrupt set of people. Data on candidates standing for elections shows how they multiply their wealth while in power. This is the declared wealth and not the actual which is often held as benami and through a complex web of holdings in India or abroad in tax havens.
Leaders of parties do not encourage criticism within parties. Leadership which used to identify with the poor by living simply has given way to one which socializes with the rich and copies its style of existence. Parliamentarians with designer clothes, gold and diamond watches and fancy cars are now a common sight. These people when they get to power subvert democracy to make gains. Even the leadership of the marginalized sections has rapidly got corrupted under the influence of this undemocratic politics based on vote bank politics. They feel they can only win elections if they have big money and not because they have the support of the citizens. The result is unresponsive and unstable politics, a weak democracy and a shift away from the politics of achieving greater equity in society.

VII.1   Collective Action - Difficulties
Organizing people is becoming increasingly difficult. National governments have become more authoritarian and global capital has become all powerful. Society’s horizons have become increasingly narrow and so have the horizons of individuals. The process of atomization of the individual and the retreat of the social in favour of the `objective and valueless’ market has added to the difficulties of sustained mobilization of the citizens.
Arab Spring and the movement against the one per cent have faltered with negative consequences. In the Arab world country after country is in disarray – Egypt, Libya, Syria and so on. There is a lack of a global society and global values. The power of global capital also is enormous and it keeps the various movements divided. This is also the case in India where we have many single issue movements but not ones that can challenge capital as a whole. 
The Gandhian principles can form a basis for change. He remains relevant even if he appears to be not so in the present materialistic world. His principle, `last person first’ can be a truly democratizing one which can check the growing inequity in society.

Society has a civilizing aspect and even if there are natural differences among people, they can be overcome because of the potentiality of social thought and social organization. Civilized societies protect their weak since they recognize the potential of each citizen. Thus, society has to regain its domination and counter growing marketization and atomization. Altruism is basic to people. This is being denied in the race for competition. Youth is robbed of its best years and atomized. Its idealism and energy are largely turned into cynicism.
To conclude, while many factors are responsible for inequality in society, only some of the important ones have been dealt with in this paper. The historical and international roots have been pointed out and the importance of marketization, the black economy and some macroeconomic factors have been highlighted. While the market marginalizes the marginal, the failure of the free market framework is further accentuating the problems. The large and growing black economy as indicated by the growing levels of corruption is vitiating the problem of inequity by taking the issue out of the realm of the social.
Thus, today while the need to promote equity in society is greater, the predominance of economics over other disciplines and the economic system resulting from one-way globalization and the growing marketization are marginalizing the quest for equity in India. Even the marginalized social groups that should fight for equity are affected by these factors and their struggle gets subverted by their leaders. Capitalism is not known to produce equity but this feature has been known to lead to its periodic crisis. The present juncture is also one of continuing crisis because of rising inequality in society. The Indian ruling elite has made the struggle for achieving equity irrelevant by ignoring it but they do so at their own peril.

Note: This paper is substantially based on my book on Indian Economy since Independence. Kumar (2013).