Introduction Access to bank resources, ability to play in the capital markets at the right time, milking the big opportunities in games like cricket, being in the right Government positions at the right time, having a very good educational background after having studied in IIMs or the IITs or both or at the ISB or the top ten B schools are the variables that lead to prosperity. At the very time, those with very poor incomes and none of the above become very poor in the same cities or even smaller towns. This happens at the very same time. Those who are uneducated or untrained face the music and are pushed to the bottom. These people are seen everywhere, trying to get whatever little help they can through the Public Distribution System, for which they would not mind standing in the queue for even three hours or slogging it out in the public, with hundreds of other similar unfortunate souls who also wait for their share of drinking water, more often than not, supplied through lorries.
The particular routes to both prosperity and poverty actually happens by and through a) Influence in getting bank loans to the tune of several thousands of rupees b) Access to the country's best institutions or being highly skilled c) Ability to manipulate Government contracts for personal profit d) Using very corrupt means to corner resources and e) Manipulating people for selfish purposes.
Influence in getting bank loans to the tune of several thousands of crores This has happened time and again. Instead of supporting the small and medium businesses, the Government of India has numerous power centres that generate a huge amount of black money in cash for the ruling party. This is funded by actual cash that is given by very rich industrialists. There are hundreds of ways in which this cash is intelligently subverted through various trusts floated by these same organizations. It has been superbly documented that even when Kingfisher Airlines was incurring huge losses, banks were literally forced to give huge loans to that playboy of an industrialist who is now safely holed up in London. His name is Vijay Mallya. Result? Bad debts to the tune of Rs 9000 crores. God only knows if that will even come back at all. The Essar group is another atrociously useless group that has run up bad debts to the tune of forty thousand crores. None of these industrialists is poor. Their fat salaries running into crores has always enabled them to reinvest their money in assets here in India and abroad. Dubai is one of their favourite destinations. They live in mansions and are highly intelligent in having the right connections. The second and third generation of such industrialists has all studied abroad.
The weakening of the banking system is ruining the life of millions of ordinary people. Now, poverty is in relative terms. For a single personal loan, ordinary middle-class citizens run around and suffer the massive documentation requirements. Their access to power is very limited. The lower middle classes and the poor do not have access to bank credit at all. There is the poverty of resources, in the form of credit.
Access to the country 's best institutions or being highly skilled Prosperity in terms of very good savings, foreign holidays, contribution to the profits of online agencies like Swiggy and OLA, shopping only at the huge shopping malls, the young crowd, mostly less than 28 years old from the best institutions like IITs or IIMs or NITs or ISB or the Top ten B schools are having a whale of a time. They are literally using up all resources at the heart of big cities. These guys have vast resources at their command. They live in very good gated communities in the Metro cities. Today, their access to vast natural resources like water, which is purchased and consumed by these elite people, makes life miserable for the other classes. They manage with very little water. It is a pan- India scenario. Prosperity and relative poverty co-exist at the same time. This new economic class, placed very comfortably at the second place in the pecking order behind the rich industrialists quoted above, is the fabulous contributor to the conspicuous consumption of a huge variety of junk food that we see all around. To have some peace of mind, they take refuge in some solutions offered by the new wave spiritual Gurujis who now market their wares like hot potatoes. These Gurujis have become crorepatis, running businesses with the " ethnic " and "Herbal" unique selling propositions. It does seem that nature itself has a very unique way of building new forms of capitalists. Yes, the unskilled manage to keep their heads above water, above the poverty line to some extent. But the gap between the rich and the poor is huge, anyway. For example, domestic servants who double up as cooks in Bangalore city, and work in the houses of these new wave rich classes in the posh localities, earn Rs8000 or even more. When they work in four houses, they get to earn very good salaries. This merry-go-round is bound to continue. The educational level is a key issue.
The relatively unlucky MBAs from the third grade B schools or engineers from the other institutions, do not have much of a choice. They live in rather unhealthy environs in the cities. Their lives are never so good. Their savings is also not so good. In life, it is a relatively horrible life for the other educated classes. They have picked up some pieces of the action and are doing their bit to enjoy lives in whatever little ways they can. Visits to the theme parks on the weekends and occasional eating out in the very good branded restaurants offering both the vegetarian and non-vegetarian food is all that they afford to catch up with. Yes, there are too many small restaurants and other institutions where the economy of the poor, by the poor and for the poor takes systematic shape. This is more so in the hundreds of small towns all over India. Highly skilled family counsellors, the smart fashion designers, interior designers, the architects and so on, also make huge money. This is also the same "prosperous" class.
Ability to manipulate Government contracts for personal profit This is another atrocious practice, supported by select politicians. The contractors are always in good books of the local politicians who simply loot public money. This loot is shared between the two. Vulgar display of wealth has taken new forms. For example, the new costly cars we see, the jewellery we see on the women of such families, the frequent foreign holidays of these people and so on, are indicators of prosperity. Acutely aware that things cannot go too far, the richest politicians engage in some form of charity. Water is supplied free to the very poor people who live in the shabby slums and other small houses with bare minimum facilities. This sort of " just pleasing the poor" is a very happy game. The educated classes are aloof, as their access to resources is slightly better. The poor in the rural areas are outside the purview of this loot to a large extent. But when the rains are inadequate or zero, the poor are literally pushed to the cities where they work in the construction sites. Those who live in such sites, particularly migrant labour from the Hindi heartland, is by far the most exploited class. This huge chunk of basically unskilled labour and their ways of living might as well become the subject of doctorate thesis of sociology students who could study this class, barely living on the poverty line but not too much above it.
Using very unethical means to corner resources This is the work of the rapidly increasing "goonda" classes in our society. Money power goes hand in hand with muscle power. The middle-class people are threatened to sell their properties to only some particular individual. They are pushed into such games. Those who indulge in this game, have big connections with the police. What is shown so often in the violent Tamil and Telugu movies takes place in real life. This game has no full stop. It is very unfortunate, but it is a fact of life in most cities in India. The land is the biggest resource that is taken away by this goondas class. The middle class suffers the most.
Manipulating people for selfish purposes This happens in hundreds of organizations. Autocratic bosses bully their subordinates and get away with all their dirty games. When the subordinates are not promoted, they do not naturally have money too. The bosses gain everything at their expense. The game is a very selfish game played by hundreds or even thousands of bosses. The poverty of a different kind takes place. It is the poverty of access to power and position and money.
Conclusion Observation of social phenomena has so many dimensions. Those who suffer, are " poor" in some way or the other. Those who prosper will always be very happy as they jolly well know that there is someone who can be called upon to do all the non-value adding work in one way or the other. Some dimensions of the new games of prosperity and poverty have been discussed above.
The top five countries with the widest gap between the rich and poor include South Africa, China, India, Costa Rica, and Brazil. In a report by Oxfam, the top 1% of India has around 73% of the country's total wealth and these are staggering figures.
India is a land of diversity and opportunity, the system is susceptible to manipulation like what the author has listed. Apart from this, the emergence of private corporate brand houses in the consumer goods sector, health sector, financial sector etc has led to a spurt in the number of millionaires in India. Apart from this, the digital platform has unlimited avenues for making money, this also has bred a new cream of the super-rich.
With the growing population and official apathy, the poor remain poor. Efforts to improve their existence does not reach all the needy. A wide gap between the rich and poor does not bode well in relation to our place among peers.