June 29, 2010
Kaushik Chatterji

More than 77% of our country's population lives on less than 20 Rs per day. This is not any random statistic I just came up with - it is the official figure provided by the NCEUS. The top 1% - the rich - control a ridiculous amount of wealth. The figure's probably not as obscene as the USA, but it's more worrisome given our population. Then again, 1% of 110 crore - 1.1 crore - can hardly be termed as insignificant. Even the top 0.01% - the bracket that is ordinarily called "super rich" - constitutes 1.1 lakh people, but it is only when we have a look at those levels that we get even a vague idea of concentration of wealth and the associated disparities.

But we, who are firmly rooted in and around the middle of that 22% bracket, continue not to give a damn about that 77%. Instead, we scramble to lap up whatever little crumbs are thrown our way by that 1%. Some of us vote (many of us don't even do that), plan (but don't evade) our taxes and work hard (and while we are at it, step over tons of people who are in a similar position as us if not worse off). We work hard just so that our overlords feel pleased and in a moment of weakness decide to marginally increment the amount of crumbs to be thrown our way. Our overlords - a bunch of people who are amassing wealth by multiples of thousands of crores and openly competing against each other in terms of their personal collections of private yachts and jets, and have the clout to get away with genocide over and over again, let alone something as petty as murder. Our overlords - the owners of big businesses, the industrialists, the corporates, the capitalists; the parliamentarians and other so-called democratic politicians, as well as the highest circles of bureaucracy; the media, redundant as it is to mention it separately since it is nothing but just another really big business.

Rhetoric? Yes. Each and every aforementioned word, nay, character even. Close your eyes and close this tab/window. Immediately. Do not, I repeat, do not snap out of the dream. Pay 200 bucks to see a film that cost 60 crores to make and market in a plush multiplex. Be fooled by clever advertising, give in to temptation and spend your hard-earned money on things that do not matter. Better still, adopt a pseudo-liberal stance, optimize your social media presence and make yourself heard - on blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook, online, offline, newspaper readers' opinion columns, news channel talk shows, etc. etc. Shun religion, caste, region, language, community, gender and all those other entities that cause biases and divides. All but one, that is. Money, 'coz if it weren't for the economically privileged, how would these biases persist and how would we be made privy to their existence?

Once upon a time, it might have been the White Man's Burden, but as things stand now, especially in our country, tearing down the walls that stand between people is the Rich Man's Burden. All we - we who are not yet rich but who aren't exactly struggling to make ends meet - need to do is support them, and maintain just this one partition - the one that is root cause of each and every other one of them.

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