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Report suggests Indian democracy 'hasn't achieved' equitable economic decentralization

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram 

The news that the current economic inequality in the country is worse than during British rule is unsettling. This suggests the harsh reality that our democracy has not achieved equitable economic decentralization. A recent report by Thomas Piketty and three other economists reveals shocking findings: in 2023-24, the top 1% of the wealthiest people in India hold 40% of the nation's wealth, with a 22.6% share in income. 
The report highlighting the growth of billionaires indicates the dominance of the wealthy class, pointing towards economic inequality driven by our wealth-centric economy. In fact, economic inequality had decreased during the 1980s. 
However, liberal economic policies in the era of globalization and liberalization have increased income inequality, highlighting the inconsistencies in our income tax system. There has been a long-standing demand for reforms in the country's tax structure, with taxes levied on the income and property of the wealthy. The revenue generated from this should be invested in improving health, education, and nutrition. However, this has not been seriously considered, leading to the continued ruthless exploitation of resources. 
The report states that a 2% tax on the total wealth of the country's 167 richest families in 2023-24 would have increased the country's total income by 0.5%. This effort would have helped bridge the widening gap of inequality. However, the current economic inequality crisis has not been taken seriously by those in power.
Certainly, the ever-increasing gap of inequality in any country can eventually become a weapon of social unrest, negatively impacting law and order. 
The roots of discontent and resistance in many countries around the world lie in economic inequality. When the level of economic inequality becomes unbearable, it triggers resistance. It is crucial to respect labor to maintain social balance in the country. 
The continuous decline in workers' income is not a good sign for any country. When 1% of the population lives a luxurious life while a significant portion of the population struggles for food, clothing, and shelter, it is not a healthy situation for any conscious democracy. This economic imbalance calls for a discussion on the significance of democracy. 
Recently, the Supreme Court's initiative of receiving thousands of crores in donations from the wealthy class to political parties underlines this economic inequality. The wealthy class, investing huge sums in political parties under the guise of election donations, eventually wants a significant share in democracy, influencing government practices and policies to serve vested interests. 
This highlights the contradictions within democracy. The common man may question how the wealth he spends his entire life earning goes to the wealthy in minutes, raising doubts about the system. This inevitably leads to social despair, which could ultimately result in social upheaval. Undoubtedly, this is a serious issue that the country's leaders need to address seriously. The extent to which the gap of economic inequality can be bridged will be a measure of the meaningfulness of our democracy.
Moreover, the increase in military spending in the defense sector globally is highly concerning, causing alarm around the world. Amidst all counter-terrorism measures, the global military expenditure, competition for arms, and lethal weapons race are nothing short of a danger signal. The world is under the terror of the disastrous consequences of nuclear armament, leading to a loud call for disarmament and peace globally. 
Despite the universal appeal for a world without war and disarmament, there is no consensus on the issue of arms production and accumulation for power balance. Arms not only cause extensive damage but also have a high risk of misuse if they fall into the wrong hands. Current events highlight that while Russia and Ukraine are at odds, tensions between Israel and Iran are escalating, and the clouds of war are constantly looming over China and Taiwan. 
In such an environment, the question arises whether we are heading towards a third world war, and it is natural to wonder if the world is becoming an experimental ground for the use of deadly weapons. The recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute raises similar concerns.
India has become the largest arms importer in the world. It has purchased most weapons globally in the past five years
The statistics in the Stockholm report are not only shocking but also terrifying. Despite all peace measures, the increase in global military expenditure and the rise in the arms trade is worrying. Notably, India ranks fourth among the countries with the highest military expenditure. The stockpiling of arms in the land of peace and non-violence exposes the disparity between its words and actions. 
While every country advocates for peace, the continuous arms race raises obvious questions. India has become the largest arms importer in the world. According to the Stockholm report, India has purchased the most weapons globally in the past five years. The report also mentions that Europe has nearly doubled its arms imports in 2019-23 compared to 2014-18, primarily due to the Russia-Ukraine war. 
Additionally, Asian countries have purchased the most weapons in the past five years. The Russia-Ukraine war has significantly impacted Russia's defense exports, causing it to rank third in arms exports for the first time, with the US and France in the first and second positions, respectively. The extensive arms and technology trade by the US is pushing humanity into a corner from which returning is difficult. 
Even the US, along with the world, has become a victim of this arms and violent mentality. The US's goal is to dominate the world and expand the arms business. On one side, the US and its NATO allies, and on the other, the Russia-China alliance, with neutral countries indirectly leaning towards one side or the other. In such a scenario, the only hope lies with the United Nations. 
Though its powers and objectives may seem superficial, the whole world is aware of them. In any crisis, it passes peace resolutions to shirk its responsibility. It plays no meaningful role in stopping the Russia-Ukraine conflict or the Israel-Palestine conflict, with its tough decisions ultimately surrendering to the veto power of the superpowers. 
Despite being the largest platform for countries worldwide post-World War II, the UN has a minimal role in stopping wars. In such a situation, who will stop the growing arms race and the possibilities of war in the world? 
The increasing arms race is evident, with the US displaying hypocrisy, leading the call for peace from war-bound countries while simultaneously boosting the arms trade. The policy to curb this needs to be addressed, but no one is paying attention to the fundamental question of who will bell the cat.

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