“Backward Communities unite and Resist BJP and it’s Crony Corporates”

Biju

The BJP governments’ aggressive push for privatisation, corporatisation, automation etc – what they call ‘economic reforms’ – is rapidly undoing the meagre gains made by backward communities in recent decades. The electoral bonds scam has clearly revealed, these policies are shaped for the benefit of corporations, the overwhelming majority of them run by savarnas.

Important research findings all Indian citizens must pay heed to:

Corporate India is a savarna club: A study by Swadeshi Andolan revealed that not a single SC or ST person is present on the board of directors of India’s top 25 private corporations, while only six from OBC communities are present. Over 90% of these positions are occupied by savarnas, who are only 30% of the Indian population. A study by Northern British Columbia University found that nearly 93% of the board members of India’s top 1000 corporations were savarnas; 46% Vaishya and 44% Brahmin. The OBCs and SCs /STs were a meagre 3.8% and 3.5% respectively. These numbers starkly reveal how corporate India is essentially a savarna club.


Accelerating inequality: A World Inequality Lab study found that in 2022-23, top 1% income and wealth shares (22.6% and 40.1%) are at their highest historical levels and are among the very highest in the world, and higher than during the British Raj. An Oxfam India study found that top 1% of wealthy people in India owned more than 40% of the total wealth created in the country from 2012 to 2021, while only 3% of the wealth has gone to the bottom 50%.

The top 1% in India means almost exclusively savarna corporate promoters, investors and executives, while the bottom 50% is almost entirely comprised of backward communities.

Growing poverty: The World Bank reports that, in 2019, the poverty rate in rural India stood at 11.6 per cent compared to 6.3 per cent for urban areas. According to the recently published Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2021 published by UNDP, five out of six multi-dimensionally poor people in India live in households whose head is from a Scheduled Tribe (ST), a Scheduled Caste (SC), or Other Backward Class (OBC). The ST group – Adivasis – is the poorest. Overall, half of India’s tribal people, or 65 out of a population of 129 million, live in multidimensional poverty. The estimate of the same for for Dalits is 94 million, out of a total population of 283 million.

Hunger and malnutrition: A Harvard University study in 2024 revealed some shocking findings about the nutritional status of children among India’s most vulnerable groups. It found that India’s prevalence of so-called “zero-food” children – ie, infants who have not received any food over a 24-hour period –

was one of the worst in the world at 19.3 per cent, numbering about 67 lakh children. Nutrition in India has clear linkages to caste; for example, a 2015 study by National Institute of Nutrition found that 32-33% of scheduled caste/tribe boys under five years of age are underweight, compared to 21% in the general population.

Unemployment: In 2017-18, the National Sample Survey Office’s periodic labour force survey (PLFS) report revealed that the Indian economy was already in deep trouble, with the country’s unemployment rate at its worst ever in 45 years. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy estimated that a staggering 14 crore people were rendered jobless by the national lockdown implemented in March 2020. Joblessness remains at record-breaking levels in India.

Accelerating economic inequality, growing poverty, intolerable levels of hunger and malnutrition, record unemployment… none of these are happening by accident, but the result of policies that systematically favour savarna-led corporations and cronies over the majority backward communities. Where the impoverished majority deprived of employment is given free rice, the corporations enjoy tax-cut and loan write-offs worth thousands of crores. Here is how how the Modi government’s policies have been systematically impoverishing the backward majority while enriching the savarna minority:

Privatisation peril: Backward communities comprise the overwhelming majority of India’s population, and a small percentage of the educated among them are presently assured government jobs through the policy of reservations. But, by not filling government job vacancies, by selling off Public Sector Undertakings, by privatising of government services, Modi government is not only selling of the national wealth built up over decades from taxpayer money to the savarna-dominated corporate world, it is doing so at the cost of backward communities.

Corporatisation as exclusion: After Independence, backward communities got reservation in education and in government services, which also helped them start enterprises, especially in agriculture and retail trade, apart from small scale industries. Modi government is opening up these sectors for big corporations, most of who are run by savarnas, and which therefore invariably employ upper caste staff at higher salaries. These policies have already led to the closure of many small scale industries run by entrepreneurs from backward communities.

How the government helps corporations: A report by leading financial firm Credit Suisse says that in the first five years of Modi government, it adjusted NPAs worth Rs 7,77,800 crore that was owned to public sector banks by big corporations. In 2019, the Central Government reduced the corporate tax slabs from 30 per cent to 22 per cent, with newly incorporated companies (start-ups) paying an even lower percentage (15 per cent). Over the last two years, this new taxation policy resulted in a total loss of Rs 1.84 lakh crore. Incredibly, these windfall tax gains were granted to corporations at a time they were reporting record profits: a 70 per cent increase in 2021-22 compared to the previous year, while 84 per cent of households saw a decline in their income.

To increase revenue following the shortfall, the Union Government adopted a

policy of hiking GST rates while simultaneously cutting down on exemptions. There were also constant hikes in the excise duties on diesel and petrol. The indirect nature of both the GST and fuel taxes invariably burdens the most marginalized, who have to pay an increasingly larger amount of their household income on fuel, and on essential commodities. But the same government failed to offer any relief to India’s struggling agriculture and small scale industries sectors where the majority of backward communities find employment.

Discriminatory taxation: The lower income groups, who consist mostly of backward communities, are taxed disproportionately higher in India than higher income groups. Approximately 64% of the total Rs 14.83 lakh cr collected as GST came from the bottom 50% of the population in 2021-22, while 33% of GST was from the middle 40% and only 3% of GST from the top 10%, according to the Oxfam report. The bottom 50% of the population pays six times more on indirect taxes as a percentage of income compared to the top 10%.

Impacts of corporatisation of agriculture and retail trade: The entry of corporate monopolies into agriculture, wholesale and retail trade, and food processing is having a catastrophic impact on rural India. Digitisation of these employment intensive sectors is further creating huge monopolies, deskilling, dependencies, and loss of livelihoods. It will eliminate small farmers and retail traders, while creating reduced choices and higher prices for consumers as well. The combined effects of these policies are leading to mass unemployment, especially for the backward communities who form the majority of the workforce in these sectors.

The threat of automation: Widespread adoption of automation – a policy embraced by the present government and big corporations – is threatening to wipe out not just jobs, but whole industries. According to the World Bank, “Automation threatens 69 per cent of the jobs in India”.                                                                               Automation threatens even those areas where backward communities have recently found employment, such as industrial manufacturing, and the lower ends of the service/knowledge economy. The Modi government’s policies to promote

drone-assisted farming and the corporatisation of food production indicates that even agriculture, where the overwhelming majority of backward communities find employment, will be severely affected. We must ask why the Modi government, whose record on employment is the worst in our history, is actively promoting automation in the middle of record joblessness.

Road privatization, corruption and inflation: All over India, new roads are being built by private corporate houses. Almost every such instance is plagued by allegations of corruption and inflated costs. Most people think that high toll charges imposed to recover the cost of these projects only affect those who own private cars. This is not so; high toll charges extracted from carrier transport vehicles directly contribute to transportation costs of goods, leading to an increase in prices, thus adding to the burden of already high living costs. A primary study conducted by Swadeshi Andolan showed that 15-20% of the increase in transportation costs is due to high toll charges alone.

Electoral bonds show the emperor has no clothes: The corrupt BJP-

corporate nexus has now been exposed thanks to the Supreme Court forcing the government to disclose details of electoral bonds. They have clearly demonstrated how Narendra Modi’s BJP, which came to power promising to wipe out corruption at all levels, has been the biggest beneficiary of corporate- led corruption in today’s India. Observers have pointed out how many of these donations seem to be made in return for favours granted by the government in the form of contracts and exemptions, amounting to hundreds of thousands of crores.

Farmers and workers agitation is an existential struggle of backward communities

After three decades of ‘economic reforms,’ it’s clear who has gained from these policies and who has lost. The governments in power have consistently brought in tax regimes, fiscal measures and policies such as land acquisition laws designed to favour the savarna-dominated corporate world, while the backward communities are crushed under the weight of these policies, or are locked into desperate struggles to protect their land and livelihoods from being stolen by these polices.

The total domination of corporations – whether MNCs or Indian corporations such as Adani or Reliance run by Modi government’s cronies – over almost every sector of the economy has led to a situation where the people of India now exist, in effect, to vote for the BJP and to create profits for their cronies. For backward communities, the Modi government’s policies therefore herald the coming of an unprecedented catastrophe that threatens to wipe out the Constitutional rights and protections guaranteed to backward communities in the post-Independence era.

Backward communities must come together to end this corrupt, authoritarian and casteist nexus of BJP and savarna crony capitalists. Resist or perish, that is the stark choice for us, so resist we will, at any cost.

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K V Biju, National Convener, Swadeshi Andolan

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