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Mainstream, VOL LX No 24, New Delhi, June 4, 2022

Does India have selfish ruling class? | Radhakanta Barik

Friday 3 June 2022, by Radhakanta Barik


by Radhakanta Barik *

India is suffering from the selfish ruling class who are rooted in Hinduism. As a religion it does not create moral and ethical pressures on class to work for the welfare of the common people. This religion believes in past life and present life which guides the prosperity and sufferings of people. Karma Dharma guides the present rulers who believe in the philosophy. It is highly selfish ruling class India has today. As Prof Thomas Pogge explains the justice suffers when the ruling class turns into a selfish one. (lecture in Rajdhani College, 2022) Justice is failing here as it believes in distributive one which is highly inclusive by which the poorer lot needs justice. It is both material and moral and ethical one. Rawls created a social ethical framework for working justice for common people. It is capitalism which can work for the common people if it has better institutional system. Public institutions can work under the pressures from the public action as advised by Amartya Sen. (Dreze and Sen 2013 Prof Sen and Pogge two important thinkers have been able to interpret the political philosophy of Rawls in a democratic manner.

Capitalism all over world faced deep crisis during the covid 19. This affected the whole world and world suffers worst during the covid as the countries went for complete lock down. But American capitalism tried to provide benefit to the working class those badly affected by the covid 19. It came around two percentages of their national income of America. British capitalism went ahead for an inclusive welfare policy for those who got badly affected by the covid. For instance they supplemented their house rent those who could not pay the rent during the crisis. They provided the grants for helping the payment of wage of workers.

India has a rich tradition of economic thinking which is highly inclusive. Capitalism in India under Nehru to Indira Gandhi brought a philosophical outlook which is called socialism for the poor where education and health needs were taken care by the state. Indira Gandhi went ahead to provide a slogan Garibi Hatao where poor got direct benefits in form of assets like land, cows or goats for improving their economic activities. With this state oriented its public policies to create network through block development agencies to provide these assets to the poor. This got opposition from the major opposition party Jan Sanga which is embedded in Hindutu thinking. They had a writer Naipaul a Nobel Laureate in literature got award Bharat Ratna during Vajpayee regime. He wrote in opposition to Indira Gandhi’s Garibi Hatao that it is going to kill Hinduism as it believes in poverty is the fate of works done in the past life and in the present life one suffers from poverty. Hindutva does not have a strategy for handling covid 19? This reflected in the writings of Naipal in his novel Wounded civilisation where he criticizes the slogan garibi hatao of Indira Gandhi. (Naipal 1977)He claims that it is against the Hinduism as they believe in fate. It depends on your work in past life to acquire wealth and come out of poverty. India moved ahead on the path of progress started by Nehru in his mega projects in the state sector. It went to the grass roots level by Mrs Indira Gandhi by attacking poverty through her rural development projects. It worked through Rajeev Gandhi by utilizing the technology in developmental works. It got a boost during Dr Manmohan Singh’s time by creating small scale industries which provided massive employment to rural labour. Modi wanted to destroy those by creating a new slogan ’new India’ on the lines of Hindutva. That let poor die and rich turn into MNC. All his help to Ambani and Adani for making them MNCs. Today no health facilities for the covid patients as the slogan is ’if you remain alive then do not get bed in hospital but if die then do not get a place in the cremation ground.’ They will believe in fate and philosophy of Hinduism that good life depends on good work in past life. This will create a blind belief in gods and goddesses like during the time of Cholera as thakurani. Some of them started worshipping Covid as a goddess and some others started drinking urine of cow to cure it. It seems absurd but true here.

All leading economists suggested to Modi government during covid19 to go for an alternative economic policy to benefit the common people. They suggested for income support for the workers affected by the lockdown who lost the jobs. Small scale industries were badly affected by the lock down which could not sustain longer went for closure which is a big loss to Indian economy. As the majority of workers work in the small scale industries and in organized sector a small percentage of workers work. Two years of closure created problems for the small scale industries as their machines got rusted. It is very difficult to recover from the economic shock. State did not come forward for package for these industries nor working class.

The Nobel laureates like Amartya Sen and Abhijit Banerjee and many more economists pleaded for two percentages of GDP to create an income support for the workers and small scale industries. Modi government did not work nor the industrialists who grew during his rule such as Ambani and Adani both belonged to Gujarati and lacked their commitment to welfare of common people.

Let us examine the Hindu trinity consists of three gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva who create sustain and destroy the universe respectively. According to Hindu mythology when gods and demons churned the ocean they found two jars. One jar contained nectar and another was full of poison. There were many takers for nectar but nobody for poison as God Shiva consumed it. Economic prosperity is like nectar which gets consumed by the rich and powerful but poor today suffer and forced to drink the poison. They lack health education and food as their income has shrunk.

Hindu society did not have institutions for welfare needs of the public. Prof Sabarwal’s study shows that in medieval Europe the church had capacity to educate its children which was absent in Hinduism. (Saberwal 2006) The Maths could not have capacity to educate and some did which confined to high castes. This shows institutional weakness of Hinduism for welfare needs of people. Food education two primary needs are taken care of by other religions such as Sikhism or Islam through Jakat but Hinduism does not have such an ethical system for feeding poor and marginal people.

Anthropological observations over hunger tell us a bitter truth. The rich in village after dinner discuss regarding hungry people in their villages and laugh at it. They feel joyful if their brothers and sisters remain hungry they feel further excited over it. This observation creates a negative approach in Hinduism. This results in keeping hungry by paying low wage. For instance the landed families of Odisha paid One gauni rice or dhan for almost two centuries till the intervention came from the modern government in 1990s. Today intervention of Public Distribution System has brought out poor from hunger and automatically daily wage has increased. Today it is remaining at 350. It is modern state and its intervention capacity to work for the welfare of people. It started with Kamaraj in Tamilnadu and implemented by MGR rigorously. Whole India has gone for implementation of PDS and some states have done in an effective manner.

By controlling food and water created a violent upper caste Hindus who desired not to kill Dalits and backwards by force but by keeping them hungry and thirsty. They were forced to obey the hierarchy not by consent as many think but by controlling the sources of life that is food and water. In the context of Odisha the landed elite of Caste Hindus created semi slavery by paying low wage of One gauni dhan which forced their young children to work in the houses of Landlords without wage. For instance in 1990 a boy of 16 used to get Rs ten. When they refused to keep their children as servants the landed castes stopped doing cultivation. For some time they kept their land fallow to bring back disobedient Dalits back to their control. When they refused to come they started giving their land on sharecropping. In a village there was one well for which the dalit were forced to wait for hours to collect water. Food and water turned into their reins of social power.

The congress and DMK are reformist parties with modernist outlook whereas the BJP located in Hindutva consciousness. This is Hinduite thinking which kept them selfish. They got back the middle class support with attacks on welfare measures created by the previous governments. As Prof Yogendra Sigh raises a point in his paper that middle class shifted from the Congress Party because of its commitment to welfare measures. ’BJP ideology appeals to the middle class because of its own anxieties’: Sociologist Yogendra Singh.(Singh 2016)

Modi government worked without creating income support for the working people. Addressing the global business elite at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi placed India firmly in the camp of globalization and free trade. Echoing a speech delivered by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the same forum a year earlier, Modi suggested that India could be a standard-bearer for globalization and provide global leadership for trade liberalization. Touting the “radical liberalization” of the country’s foreign direct investment (FDI) regulations, Modi had boasted in 2016 that India was “the most open economy in the world for FDI.”1

Ruling class turned selfish who do not have the capacity to implement the welfare policies as suggested by Rawls. Furthermore Institutional capacity can help in providing the welfare measures to people. It happened in the context of India to some extent as the Supreme Court forced the central government for implementing a package for affected people because of Covid which resulted in payment of 50thousand rupees to each member dead because of covid. But it failed in the early stage as workers were forced to leave the cities without any alternative arrangement which got ignored by the Supreme Court. Judiciary in comparison to other institutions such bureaucracy and legislature has done better in working for the poor. District Magistrates had power to provide food and shelter to the migrant labour in their respective districts but it did not work except Kerala where DM has provided a gift to each migrant labour under the pressures from the left front government.

The political executive at the centre are most selfish one who do not bother to provide income support to the working people. This resulted in deep economic crisis of India. Consumption level has fallen because of lack of income which resulted in lack of demand for the economy. This has pushed the GDP down. With the rise of inflation India has entered into a phase of stagflation where stagnation and inflation are killing poor today without any concrete support. India is suffering from high unemployment which is worst in the last fifty years.

Rawls concept of Justice can work only where the ruling class carries a human touch with people. This is happening in both industrialist class and political elite do not have concept of welfare minded people. On the contrary they are embedded in Hinduite thinking which have made them selfish one. This has resulted in failure of Income support for the working people during covid 19. Today’s stagnation and inflation are killing vast section of masses in India.

(Author: Prof Radhakanta Barik was former faculty member at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, New Delhi)


  • Thomas Pogge,” Justice, Self Interest and Prosperity:” Lecture in a conference organized by Department of Political Science, Rajdhani College, Delhi University “ Rethinking Contemporary Global Concerns: Universal Basic Income, Universal citizenship and Global Justice” 28th and 29th April 2022
  • Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, “Hunger and Public Action, Oxford, 2003
  • Yogendra Singh, “ BJP ideology appeals to the middle class because of its own anxieties,” https: Scroll. In – olitics – Scroll Interview, 5 May 2016
  • Satish Saberwal, Mushirul Hasan, Assertive Religious Identities: India & Europe: Amazon 2006
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