Now one may think that these wealthy politicians will be from the well-educated class of India or having clean criminal records. In the case of education, conditions are satisfactory as almost 80 percent of the members in Lok Sabha were graduates, but…
India is supposed to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Our politicians quote India as an example of economic growth, democracy and human rights during their discussions in the different talks shows on television. Although governments of India always try to present India as shining and rising which is true about some parts of India, but most of India is neither rising nor shining. Some parts of India are shining and some are blight; there is rising India but there is also the never-rising India. India is the largest democracy in the world, but most of us do not know how this democracy works and who is represented by whom in the parliament of India.
If it is true that India is one of the fastest growing economies, then it is also true that India is home to a quarter of the world’s most hungry people. It is also true that the number of people living in extreme poverty around the world had declined significantly in the last 30 years, but India is the only country which, 30 years before, was home to one fifth of the world’s poorest people, but today, a third of the world’s poorest people live in India. According to the World Bank report of 2010, 32.7% of Indians fall below the international poverty line, meaning that 32.7% of Indian cannot even earn $1.25 per day, while 68.7% live on less than US$ 2 per day.
The first Global Slavery Index, published October 2013, confirms that India has been approaching half the world’s slaves – an estimated 13.9 million out of almost 30 million globally, wherein individuals and families, including children, are exploited in slave-like conditions to pay off debts.
India is home to the largest number of illiterate adults in the world. According to a UN report, there are around 900 million illiterate adults in the world, and India still has the highest number of 287 million, amounting to 37% of the global total.
One third of the people in India have left their homes and moved to other parts of India in search of jobs. The Dharavi slum in Mumbai, India, is one of the largest slums in the world, and India has dozens of slums around most of its big cities.
Now let us see another face of India. Let us explore the side of India where everyone is a millionaire. No, it is not about Bollywood movies or Star Plus TV serials where everyone in the movie or TV serial is a millionaire. It is about the democratic houses of the largest democracy and the representatives of a quarter of the world’s hungry and a third of the world’s poor people in these houses.
The two houses of the Indian Parliament, where most of the members are millionaire/billionaire, are the upper house (Rajya Sabha) and lower house (Lok Sabha) of the Parliament of India.
Rajya Sabha (State Assembly) consists of 250 members, 12 of them are nominated by the President of India and the rest are elected by the state and territorial legislatures.
In the current Rajya Sabha that is going to complete its term this year, 219 members submitted their self-sworn affidavits at the time of their election to the Rajya Sabha. The Association of Democratic Reform (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW) of India had done analyses of the assets of these members in 2010. According to the analyses, out of 219 members of the Rajya Sabha, 100 members have declared their assets worth more than one crore (10 million) rupees.
The richest member of Rajya Sabha is the industrialist Rahul Bajaj who has declared his assets worth more than Rs. 300 crore (3 billions). M A M Ramaswamy from Karnataka (Janta Dal) and Subarmani Reddy (Congress) declared their assets worth more than Rs 278 crore (2.78 billions) and Rs 272 crore (2.72 billions) respectively.
In 2013, 67% members of the Rajya Sabha, meaning 153 out of 272, were having assets worth more than one crore (10 millions).
In another report published this month, the ARD analyzed data of the 58 new members of the Rajya Sabha. According to the ARD, 50 members (86%) out of 58 new members of Rajya Sabha are millionaires with average assets of Rs. 44.74 crores (447.4 millions). BJP’s Ravindra Kishore Sinha from Bihar (one of the poorest states of India) is the richest among the Rajya Sabha members, with declared assets worth Rs. 857.11 crore (8571.1 millions).
The lower house of the Indian parliament is known as Lok Sabha or House of the People. The total number of the members of this house is 552, elected by the people through elections from different states of India.
This house of the representatives of a third of the poorest people in the world is also made up of millionaire members.
The average assets of the Lok Sabha members elected in the 2004 elections were worth 1.64 crores (16 millions). According to the affidavits submitted by the member of Lok Sabha to the Election Commission, the MPs of Lok Sabha as a group had total assets valued at Rs 878 crore (8.78 billion). The assets of over 50% of the MPs were over 50 lakh (5 million) and over 27% had assets of over Rs.1 crore (10 millions).
In 543 members of Lok Sabha elected in 2009, one in five members had assets worth Rs. 5 crore (50 million), another two in five had assets worth more than 1 crore (10 millions). Out of 543, 315 members of Lok Sabha were having assets worth more than 1 crore (10 millions).
Now one may think that these wealthy politicians will be from the well-educated class of India or having clean criminal records. In the case of education, conditions are satisfactory as almost 80 percent of the members in Lok Sabha were graduates, but 30% members of this Lok Sabha have one or more criminal cases registered against them and 14% (75 members) of them are charged with serious crimes.
Similarly, 14 members out of the 58 new members of Rajya Sabha have criminal cases against them and two have serious criminal charges pending against them.
This is another face of India where economic inequality and the rich-poor divide is something which is spartanly visible. Different Indian economic surveys mention that the poverty is going down, but there is no mention about the rich and poor divide which is widening every year. The richest 10% of Indian society have seen the highest growth while the poorest 10% have seen the slowest increase in incomes in the last few years, and it will be difficult to control this gap between the rich and the poor when a third of the world’s poorest people are represented by millionaires and criminals in the Parliament.
How this gap between the rich and the poor can be decreased was explained by Mr. Nelson Mandela. He said, “There are many people in South Africa who are rich and who can share those riches with those not so fortunate who have not been able to conquer poverty”. If the same is applied in India, the gap between the rich and the poor could be significantly reduced in a short time.