LAUNCH OF RAMJAS ECONOMIC REVIEW, VOLUME IV
The Editorial Board of Ramjas Economic Review launched the Fourth volume of its annual academic journal on 9th September 2022. The event was graced by Dr. Reetika Khera, Associate Professor, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. The event included a lecture delivered on the theme “Poverty and Rural-Urban Income Divide.” followed by an enriching discussion.
The launch commenced with a brief oration by Dr. Mihir Pandey, Associate Professor, Ramjas college. It was a Bittersweet feeling for him as it was the first time when the book launch was done in the absence of Professor Deb Kusum Das who passed away last year in the month of December; Professor Deb Kusum Das was instrumental in the creation and continuation of this very journal. This being the fourth volume of the journal is a testament to the success of these efforts. At the same time he was happy as the journal has come a long way. The journey started in 2004 when a magazine named “Budding Economist” was launched, it helped students and teachers to work together and coerced students to go beyond their curriculum and explore the ideas and concepts. It was in 2014 when the magazine was converted into more of an Academic Journal of Ramjas Economics Society. Further In 2018 the name of this Journal was changed to “The Ramjas Economic Review”, It was in this year when the student and faculty members worked hard and succeeded in getting an ISSN (INTERNATIONAL STANDARD SERIAL NUMBER) number for the journal. Thereafter the fourth volume of Ramjas Economic Review was formally launched by Dr. Reetika Khera in the presence of various Faculty members and students and subsequently it was launched on the website of Ramjas Economic Review.
Then Dr. Reetika was invited for a speech on the theme “Poverty and Rural-Urban Income Divide.” Inequality has become an issue in the past years and it has emerged as an important topic especially for students of Economics in India as well as other nations around the world and not a lot of attention is being paid to this issue. Dr. Reetika started her speech by projecting a short video on fairness study where an experiment was done on two capuchin monkeys. These monkeys were placed side by side and they had to do a simple task of returning the pebble back to the person and each time they returned the pebble they were rewarded with a piece of cucumber After the first round when the first monkey saw that the second monkey was being rewarded by a grape instead of a cucumber piece he gets agitated and throws back the cucumber piece and demands for the grape from the person and starts shaking the gate as he is wondering why isn’t he getting a grape as the other one.
This experiment shows that there is a lot of intuitive affinity to equal treatment among capuchin monkeys. It's not just among monkeys but this behavior is also true for Human beings. Small things, different treatments often lead to agony among different people and communities. In spite of the affinity that the human race has for equality, some of us are living in a world that is incredibly unequal. She gave an example of herself as a government employee and a normal wage earning person. As a Government employee she has tenure of certain years and she cannot be easily thrown out of her job even if she does things wrongly or takes her work leniently and at the other end of the spectrum are those people who are daily wage earners who have no security of contract and do not have benefits. This sector of people is not given much attention in terms of policy or in economic thinking to the coexistence of these unequal arrangements.
Another example was given with respect to Maternity Benefit that says that in India if a woman is going to give birth to a child then she is entitled to maternity benefit. This maternity act is a necessary international norm for any developed country in the world but unfortunately in India it applies to a very small segment of the woman workforce and for the large majority this act does not hold. So the women who are the most vulnerable, for example women working on farmlands or small factories in rural areas, do not get paid leave or any kind of benefit. Under the 2013 National food security act a provision was made that Rs 6000 will be given to the pregnant woman in the unorganized sector. In this kind of situation people who are well settled and privileged are getting full pay whereas the most vulnerable people of India are compensated with Rs 6000. The people who should be getting the most are getting the least. It’s a representation of trickle up rather than trickle down effect.
Furthermore she indicated the question of why there is so much apathy in Indian society and democracy towards inequality. One of the main reasons for this situation according to Dr. Reetika is that the rich and privileged people categorize themselves as middle class. According to her study about 6% -10% Indians speak English, only 2% of the Indian population invests in the stock market and around 12% of Indian households own a car. So there is an anomaly that how can people who are just a part of 2% of India’s population that invest in stock market or a part of 10% of Indians who speak English can simultaneously be a part of the middle class group. The reason for the rich and privileged people not placing themselves fairly on the basis of redistribution is a result of the Power Elite Theory that includes the people who have a say in the running and decision making of the country like Representatives , Academia, Media, Democrats and so on who come from very privileged groups.
Lastly she talked about the data from the Association of democratic Reforms (ADR) which track the data of various democrats fighting for elections, all the data of their financial assets and holdings are submitted by contestants. In India the overall data of physical and financial assets owned by people was 0.2 Crore (population average), the average wealth of those people contesting in Lok Sabha elections in 2019 was 4 Crores , that is 21 times as higher than the National average. Those people who got elected in the Election had an average of 21 Crore which is 106 times the National average of the whole population. So clearly we can see that the people sitting in the Parliament are the ones coming from the very thin sliver of the Indian population. And thus for an average person of the population the ability to express his position in terms of wealth is undermined and compromised.
She added, Talking about how the money should be spent in the democratic country should be decided in a more democratic way, Philanthropy is not a way out of this problem rather it is just a way of whitewashing the problem, when we compare the donation of various rich people of the country to their wealth we find that it's just a small fraction of it. Shift in Technology is also one of the reasons that can be considered in the inequality of education and various such domains. A large part of the population is going to be left out because of the sudden shift towards technology. In a nutshell the problem of inequality is something which is to be paid more attention to in our life.
She finally wrapped up the session with some solutions. More taxation and development of various such instruments is the most important solution to the problem of inequality. Comparing India with other Developed Countries taxation systems we find that India is far behind. We don’t have wealth tax, estate tax, property or inheritance tax and so on. Taxation on such things can actually help the average and common people. When there is a problem of fiscal Deficit we only focus our attention towards the expenditure side and we happily forget about the other side of the equation which is the revenue side, where there is a lot more scope for the Indian Government. Lastly she pointed out that the avoidance of taxes is the most important topic that the Indian government should work on.
The talk concluded with a brief Q&A session where the audience expressed different opinions and viewpoints. It was truly an enriching and insightful session for Economics Enthusiasts, Students and the people present during the session.