Have we moved from the ‘politics of poverty’ to the ‘politics of prosperity’

In this essay…

What is politics? – Politics is a positive concept that brings people together for full deliberation, discussion, and decision-making. It provides a set of activities performed for governing society. It ultimately forms a structure for the political society. Thus, society forms a political community in the country. It means to protect society from becoming ‘anarchical’, political spirit is necessary. It is important to ensure happiness and growth for everybody.

Politics have been evolving over the period of time. The objective of politics has been changing with time. For example, in ancient Greek, Plato in his book “Republic” tried to ensure happiness for the people. Later his disciple, Aristotle in his book “Politics” articulated the meaning of ‘politics’. For him, instead of knowing ‘what is a good life’, it is more important to know ‘what constitutes the good life?’. Like that the conception of politics has been evolving.

Decoding the context of political change

Largely, idealism was the central theme of ancient India and the world. E.g. In ancient Greek Socratic tradition was based on idealistic notions. Contrastingly, the ancient Indian political thought – found in Kautilya’s Arthashastra – was based on realpolitik. Medieval Europe witnessed a renaissance where new ideologies emerged – Politics got separated from the church. The foundation of the modern nation was established on the notion of emerging ideas. A domino effect of nation-states was witnessed around the globe.

However, medieval India witnessed kingship rule due to foreign invaders. The impact of the separation of power and religion was less in India compared to Europe. For example, Mughal rulers were largely guided by religious Nobels. Later, with the advent of the industrial revolution, modern Europe witnesses the tectonic shift in politics – talking about human rights. But Indian political situation was not conducive to reading the room at that point of time due to colonialism. Mainstream leaders were largely talking about self-determination.

Politics of poverty: Start of making

When the Britishers went back, India started prioritizing needs. It is because of the imbalance in the economic policy of the British government during the colonial period. The British government imported raw materials and exported finished goods to India. Consequently, Indian handicrafts and local cottages were destroyed. Urban centers for economic development received a thrust. People started moving back to villages. Social stratification in villages had pushed a section of society to extreme poverty. The high degree of inequality was persistent.

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Thus, the government under the leadership of Pundit Nehru chose Fabian socialism. The basic objective was the upliftment of people living at lower strata. This socialism was based on the parliamentary meaning and centralized policy so that strong actions can be taken. For example, Just after independence pundit Nehru was determined to implement land reforms. He went for the first amendment act to establish the 9th schedule so that he can give immunity to some of the actions of the government in the interest of the people.

Similarly, to uplift poor people in India, the Indian government did not join any block in Cold War politics. Rather, India led the third pole – non align movement (NAM) – to ensure freedom of choices in an independent environment. It helped in focusing on poverty alleviation by protecting the diversion of resources. Aparna Pandey in her recent book, “Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy (2017)” argues that the main objective of pundit Nehru behind NAM is to utilize limited resources in poverty alleviation rather than diverting for defense.

Politics of poverty: development and turmoil

The politics of poverty started from the first five-year plan that focused on agriculture. Nearly, three-fourths of people were dependent on agriculture in India in 1951. It filled stomachs by increasing production and ensuring basic income to them. Later, it was complemented with the second five-year plan that stressed on industrial development. It provided employment to people and helped in poverty alleviation. From 1950 to 1980, India gave the first push to re-establishing urban India through economic development.

However, socialist policy decreased inequality in India. Thomas Piketty established this trend in his book “Capital in the 21st century” where he says that inequality in India has decreased from 23% in 1951 to 6% in 1980. But Fabián socialism failed in realizing the high growth in India. A new phrase was coined by Raj Krishna – “Hindu rate of growth”. From 1980 to 1990 India didn’t witness major changes in development due increase of secessionism and militancy in Kashmir, Punjab, the North East, etc.

Politics of poverty even continued during the tenure of Lal Bahadur Shastri, the second PM of India. Green Revolution and focusing on poor people living in villages was the main target during his tenure. It attracted explicit attention in the fifth five-year plan during Indira Gandhi that was based on the theme of “Garibi Hatao” (Remove poverty). With technological innovation and new economic policies in 1991, the “politics of poverty” witnessed a tectonic shift to “politics of prosperity”.

Initiation of ‘Politics of prosperity’

The politics of prosperity after NEP 1991 was based on the policy of job creation and poverty alleviation. It provided jobs to people. World Bank report says that India has halved its poverty rate since the 1990s. India was facing a ‘balance of payment’ crisis in the 1990s. Today, India has sufficient forex reserves. The good economic condition of India increases the government’s ability to spend on public expenditure. It means it provides a fertile ground to realize welfare policy because economic stability provides confidence in the government.

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Consequently, in the first decade of the 21st century, India legislated a number of good reforms in the direction of ‘politics of prosperity’. For example, the Competition Commission of India act 2002 replaced the MRPT act 1980, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, MGNREGA act 2005, Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 (VISHAKA guidelines), Right to Information Act 2005, Lokpal and Lokayukta Act 2013 were some of the steps in the right direction for the politics of prosperity.

India witnessed all these developments related to prosperity because ‘politics of identity‘ started to decline after the LPG reform in 1990. Apart from this, India also witnessed a social revolution culminated due to Delhi gang rape and a series of scams like the 2G spectrum. At the same time, India was witnessing a digital revolution. People got the opportunity to express themselves. The monopoly of mainstream media broke and people became vigilant to report their own sufferings. It has influenced the government to think in this direction.

New strands in the fabric of the Politics of prosperity

The ‘politics of prosperity’ legalized the right to work through the MGNREGA Act 2005. It provides compulsory 100 days’ work, timely payments, and unemployment allowances in case of failing in giving work. It also ensures that beneficiaries should receive their dues within 15 days of work completion. Similarly, National Food Security Act 2013 covers 66% of the total Indian population, up to 75% of the rural population, and 50% of the urban population under Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY). It is mandated to provide grains at a subsidized rate.

Also, the element of social justice through Mandal politics has created awareness among the backward class and increased the political empowerment of poor people. Local governance (73rd and 74th amendment act 1992) provided inclusive, participatory, and grassroots politics in India. It provides mandatorily one-third reservation to women and in proportionality to STs and SCs. World Bank report says that women’s participation at the local level has increased their bargaining power in the personal sphere also.

Similarly, the politics of prosperity also focuses on the weaker section of Indian society. For example, Senior citizen gets public services like train tickets on concession as well as their seats are reserved. The government has mandatorily extended ownership to adult women in a series of schemes like – the PM Ujjwala Scheme, the Public Distribution System scheme while availing grain, National Food Security Scheme 2013, etc. In fact, to break the glass ceiling effect, the government has provided a provision for mandatorily one woman in the board under the company act 2013.

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Politics of prosperity in “Amrit Kal” (2022-2047)

We have entered into Amrit Kaal, the 25-year-long leadup to [email protected] Starting from 2022, the journey of the next 25 years is the Amrit Kaal of a new India. We should adhere to the five pledges of PM Modi to guide Indian politics – First, India will be a “developed country” by 2047. For this, Indian politics should work toward the spirit of development. It is the politics through which power flows from people to parliament. Second, we need to erase all forms of slavery or subjugation that have been continuing since colonial days.

Third, We should display pride in our heritage in India. It would create a sense of collectivism among people as well as politics. People would refrain from ruining public property. Similarly, the political class would also morally abstain from indulging in any form of corruption. Fourth, the above three would bolster unity among the Indian people. It asks to develop a culture of tolerance and respect for others. Fifth, To develop the spirit of tolerance, all citizens should personalize their duties toward the nation. If there five pledges are met, then we can say Indian politics has moved to prosperity+ in politics.

The Prospect of Indian politics is bright enough in the way of ‘politics of prosperity. PM Modi has rightly asked to erase the baggage of the colonial mindset during his speech on Independence day 2022. Politics in colonial India was based on community and associated identity. However, to contain challenges like communal politics and identity politics, a new kind of politics based on development is emerging. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi and YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh are the light at the end of the tunnel.

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