Peoples’ Magazine Desk: As Corona pandemic hit India and the stock market crumbled, India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani lost 2.56 lakh crore. As expected, the Indian media splashed Ambani’s loss across pages. But the same media mentioned only in the passing the latest International Labour Organization report, which said the lockdown will push about 40 crore poorest Indians, earning their daily bread mostly from the unorganized sector, deeper into poverty. Media’s claim that Corona virus knows no status barriers and affects rich and poor alike is certainly not true.
Ambani lost 2.56 lakh crore in the stock market. But he still retains 1.74 lakh crore as his personal wealth. India’s top 14 billionaires together lost 4 lakh crores because of uncertainty in the stock market. But the amount of money they still possess is beyond the dreams of majority of Indian citizens, who have not earned even a rupee since the lockdown began two weeks ago. Narendra Modi has not cared to give the poor any financial support during the lockdown. He has unabashedly described himself as a servant of investors and so gave away Rs 1.45 lakh crore annually to the big corporates as tax rebate. According to government data, the total amount of subsidy enjoyed by rich Indians was Rs one trillion in 2015-16, while two-thirds of taxes collected by the government of India came from the poor through indirect taxes.
This is not an India-specific phenomenon but is a global feature. Under capitalism, whenever a crisis hits, the poor always bails out the rich through increased taxation. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos lost $5 billion because of Corona. But as of March 18 this year, he still retains $113 billion as personal wealth, according to Forbes’ list of richest people in the world. Bill Gates lost $2 billion but retains $ 105 billion.
As many as 30 lakh Americans applied for unemployment benefit in USA after Corona struck. But Donald Trump government promised $1 trillion to bailout top American companies. In addition, a $150 billion in guarantees was promised for large businesses. The mind-boggling amount will obviously be raised by further taxing the poor. Economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman recently showed that the 400 richest families in USA pay less tax than what the average poor and middle class Americans pay.
As businesses remain closed, the present lockdown will result in an economic disaster, the effects of which be felt for a long time to come. Corona pandemic will ruin lives and livelihood of crores of Indian daily wage earners, old age pensioners and even of a large number of middle classes. Those who still trust the benevolence of the government are naïve to say the least. Available data and reports should leave no doubt that every present government, either in India or abroad, only serve the big corporates and the super-rich. The poor and the middle classes are nothing but fodder in the global Capitalist mode of economy. As long as capitalism exists and is not replaced by socialist mode of economy, the situation will not change.