Radical Reforms Needed to Bridge India's Stark Rich-Poor Divide

The chaos of the world's biggest democracy's general elections for the Lok Sabha has ended. The world has duly praised our enormous election achievement. The winners of this election are grinning victoriously, while the losers are left scratching their heads.Once more, the powerful electorate is reduced to the helpless, vulnerable people experiencing déjà vu; whoever wins or loses barely makes a difference to their miserable lives, which continue to be as Hobbes had described them: nasty, brutish, and dependent on their venerable maibaaps who are ensconced in power. The well-known Goswami Tulsidas verse, "Koy Nrip Hoye Hamen Ka Hani, Cheri Chhod Na Hoibe Rani," which was composed more than 500 years ago, is still relevant today.(What loss do we have, whoever becomes king, whoever rules? I am a maid, and I shall stay that way going forward; a change in the government won't make me a queen.) That remains incredibly true to this day. After winning the mandate, all of the newly elected politicians swiftly changed after strutting on the electoral stage with flags dyed in new ideological colors and making bold pledges of honest governance. For the millions of people who live in abject poverty and rely solely on government assistance to maintain their physical and mental well-being, nothing has changed.

A major paradigm shift—the nature of individuals in positions of power—is necessary for our teeming millions of people to experience revolutionary change in their lives. Since the nation's independence, its states have seen and tested a wide range of administrations and political parties; nevertheless, whether they realize it or not, all of these leaders and governments have agreed, so far, on one thing: corruption will continue to exist and be given opportunities to grow. Therefore, all political parties promise on campaign trail to put the looters and scammers in jail or to cut it, but once in power, they do nothing. The outcome faces us all now: it is very uncommon to obtain justice in tehsils, police stations, or government offices without the use of bribes or other illicit means. Despite this, all of the leaders and parties are still conducting business as usual and have not even attempted to make an effort to combat, let alone eradicate, this terrible beast of corruption.

The fact that leaders' immoral behavior and politics have never received any attention or serious discussion is undoubtedly a sign that a major crisis is about to unfold. In actuality, we are currently facing the horrible and unsightly results of the deeds and inactions of a system that has been continuously deaf, silent, and blind to the dishonesty, falsehoods, and fraud that are common in public life for years. The nation appears to be split into two sections: the wealthy, which is made up of roughly 20 crore people whose requirements are met and who have access to all public services like clean water, consistent energy, and well-kept homes with good sanitation. Their kids have access to medical facilities and attend pricey public schools. They are educated, guaranteed respectable work, and capable of fighting for justice when needed. All in all, they are empowered citizens of a brilliant India.

But what about the majority that lives in poverty? More than 100 crore people live in extreme poverty, working nonstop to make their daily roti or kapda, and are unable to envision ever owning a makaan. They have no access to basic conveniences like clean water to drink or basic essentials like health and education. This isn't because we don't have the resources; rather, it's because the ruling class hasn't bothered to give these people and their welfare any thought—they've just given lip service and are now handing out handouts to this unfortunate group. One data is sufficient to illustrate the extent of poverty in our nation: our country continues to rank 129th out of all nations in the globe in terms of per capita annual income, placing it in the middle of the list of impoverished nations. It appears that those in positions of authority do not want to acknowledge this reality. The disparity between the rich and the poor in our nation has grown to such an extent that India is now among the most impoverished countries in the world as a result of decades of unbalanced economic policies that exclusively served the interests of the wealthy. The nation's governments continue to act like ostriches, burying their heads and displaying no sign of changing their economic policies. Immediate action must be made on a war footing to alleviate the economic circumstances of the poor in order to address the nation's growing economic disparity. Economic strategies that can quickly eradicate all signs of poverty that negatively impact the lives of the average person should be put into place.

In order to achieve this, it will be necessary to guarantee that every student receives a comparable quality of education. To this end, a national program should be launched that calls for the establishment of schools in a cluster of seven to eight villages, each equipped with the necessary resources to provide the highest quality education from class one to class twelve. This will help to end the "poverty of education" that affects the majority of the country's population. In a similar vein, all district hospitals ought to be fully furnished within the next three years in order to offer everyone access to free, first-rate healthcare. To address the long-standing scarcity of doctors, the country should expand the number of medical school seats from the current one lakh to seven lakh within the next five years. All citizens in every village should have access to all public amenities as part of a ten-year national plan to reconstruct every community. The nation's restoration will not be possible without these three measures, which will also help to close the wealth divide. However, eliminating corruption should take precedence over all other issues, as nothing else can be accomplished without doing so. This is the easiest to do because all that is needed is sincere intent, and all essential actions should be taken to loosen black money's octopus-like hold on our nation's political system.

It is evident that there is no lack of resources in our country. The resources must be used honestly to promote the welfare of the general public.India would undoubtedly thrive more if we have assured that our poorer brethren likewise enjoy fundamental rights and liberties and have closed the enormous gap between the rich and the poor. This is not a difficult task at all. All that is required is political will centered on people. Now is the time for radical government.

(This article is written by - V.S. Pandey, A former senior Indian civil servant)

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