“Inequality is the number one risk”: Vice President

“…because it is associated with a rise in populism and threatens the cohesiveness of countries.”

The Vice President said that to enjoy the ‘freedom of,’ there is a requirement first for certain ‘freedom from’. To survive with dignity, humans require both ‘freedom from want’ and ‘freedom from fear’, he added.

He pointed out:

  • Including capital gains, the share of national income going to the richest 1% has doubled since 1980. Within it, the largest share going to the top 0.01% – some 16,000 families- who now control almost 5% of the global wealth.
  • If we divide the whole income of the world into two halves, we find that the richest 8% get half, while the other half would be distributed in the remaining 92% of the population.
  • In almost all countries, the mean wealth of the wealthiest 10% is more than 10 times the median wealth. For the wealthiest 1%, mean wealth exceeds 100 times the median wealth in many countries and can approach 1000 times the median in the most unequal nations.

And in India:

The richest 1% in India owned nearly 60% of the country’s total wealth, with the top 20% commanding 80%. The bottom half of Indians by contrast, collectively own only 2% of the national wealth.

The Preamble of the Constitution specifies what ‘We the People of India’ set out to attain: Justice (social, economic and political);

Liberty (of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship); and the

Equality(of status and of opportunity), and

Fraternity (to assure dignity of individual and unity of the nation).

Thus liberty or freedom is anchored between justice and equality; also Inter-spersed is a Hegelian construct on appreciation of necessity that circumscribes this freedom. Furthermore, while equality is the premise of citizenship, the latter by itself does not guarantee substantive equality.

-In this age of ‘post-truths’ and ‘alternate facts’ – deceptive appearances can be made to prevail.

The Vice President said that;

-rising inequality can lead to conflict, both at social and at national level and the growing threat of left extremism, which has been repeatedly acknowledged as the gravest security threat to Indian state, has its roots in economic deprivation and inequality in access to resources.

-that the time has come to move the development discourse of inequality beyond the current discussion of outcomes and opportunities. The concepts of justice and fairness are tied to the idea of equity in development.

In conclusion, the Vice President raised some uncomfortable questions about [inequity, failure of trickle-down growth, environmental damage, conflicts, intolerance and improving investments in public goods].




Some years earlier, Joseph Stiglitz had written about the price of inequality in the context of the United States. More recently, Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson have describe the “pernicious effects that inequality has on societies and provide evidence for a strong correlation between higher levels of national inequality and a wide range of health and social problems.





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