by Stan Swamy
The print media has reported that from among the 946 billionaires in the world 36 are Indians. The total assets of these Indians is reported to be $191 billion ($191,000 crores or Rs. 85,95,000 crores) which is about 25% of India’s Gross Domestic Produce (GDP). That means the rest of the 100 crore Indians have the remaining 75% to share among them. Another study reveals that whereas in China the better off 50% of the population own 14 % of the nation’s wealth, in India the better off 50% Indians own 92% of India’s wealth. That means, the worse off 50% Indians have only 8% to share among themselves.
The Indian government, the middle & upper classes, the national electronic & print media keep assuring us that the country is really marching forward from strength to strength. The measuring yardstick being 13,000 points in Sensex and 9% growth rate. It is being repeated so often that people at large have started to believe it!
The question then is: how come a handful of Indians can become millionaires and a few among them can become billionaires, whereas most Indians are caught up in ever deepening and widening poverty ?
In any production process, the following elements are involved:
(1) ownership of the Means of Production: those who own land, natural resources, capital; (2) use of labour: those who do not own any thing but can only sell their labour power; (3) control of the distribution process: those who control the distribution / exchange system such as the market, trade etc.; (4) consumption pattern: those who can consume much or little.
Among these four factors, the ownership of the Means of Production is the determining factor. If the ownership is with the community, as in a socialist society, then all the subsequent factors will be beneficial for the whole community. If, on the other hand, it is with the few individual members, as in a capitalist society, then it will lead to a class society where a few enjoy all or most of the benefits, and most members are exploited and deprived of their due share. A handful few becoming millionaires and a few among them becoming billionaires is possible only in capitalist societies such as ours.
Those who own/control the means of production are in a position to hire labour, and in a capitalist society it always means exploitation of labour. In other words, depriving the labour force of their due share in the profit. In Marxian terminology it is called extraction of surplus value from the direct producers. The greater the number of workers, the greater is the amount of profit the owner makes. The accumulation of profits over a period of time becomes the new capital which the owner invests in either expanding the present production or start a new production enterprise. Thus his capital grows from thousands to lakhs to millions to billions.
Being in control of capital and labour, the capitalist invariably goes on to control the market. What starts as local market becomes national market and finally international market. This is the process by which multinational companies are born. They become so powerful that they can exert pressure on particular governments to open their markets to the products of these companies. Another element in the market is the acquisition of raw materials from whichever country on earth.
All these lead to the enjoyment of life where the maxim is: ‘the more you consume, the more developed you are’! Consumption starts with basic needs, on to comfort, on to luxury, on to super-luxury.
The fact of the matter is any production must yield surplus / profit. Otherwise it is not worth producing. But this surplus must be equitably shared by all who are involved in the production of that particular commodity. And those involved are not only the capitalist owner but also the workers. The role of the workers through their labour power is as important and vital as the capital of the capitalist. Therefore the surplus should be shared equitably both by the capitalist as well as the workers. Then only the production process will lead to the development of all the members of society. This is some thing the capitalist investor refuses to do. He is only willing to pay the workers (actual producers) a minimal amount as wages, and these wages are only a fraction of the profit. The capitalist owner appropriates the rest of it to himself. No wonder he becomes a lakhpathi and carodepathi in no time whereas the workers always remain workers. This is what Marx called ‘the exploitation of labour power by the capitalist’ leading to ‘the appropriation of the surplus by the capitalist’.
To have an idea of the extent of profit the capitalist industrialist makes, let us take as an example the coal mining in Pachuara (Pakur Dt). As per the report published by PANEM the mining company, 562 million tons of coal is to be excavated from the 1300 ha of land slated to be taken from the people of Pachuara Central Coal Block. The monetary value of coal is estimated to be Rs. 1,12,400 cr. which if divided by 1300 hectares gives Rs.86 cr per ha, and converting it to acres it works out to Rs. 34 cr per acre. It means every acre has a coal deposit to the value of about Rs. 34 cr.
Being fair to the capitalist, let us say he will incur expenditure for: (1) purchases of land, compensation and rehabilitation to the land owners; (2) fees to the central & state govts; (3) machinery & equipment needed for mining; (4) infrastructural expenses on roads, power, water; (5) construction of buildings for factory, quarters for the staff; (6) annual royalty to the govt; (7) wages to technical & general staff etc.
A very generous estimate for the above-mentioned expenditures by the capitalist industrialist will be 50% of the total value (Rs. 1,12,400 crores) of minerals he will dig out. The remaining 50%, namely Rs. 56,200 crores will be his exclusive profit.
No wonder industrialists become millionaires and billionaires in very short spans of time. But the farmers who sacrificed their land, the workers who sold their labour will always remain poor and dependent.
Finally, the socio-economic process by which a handful few are becoming millionaires & billionaires and the great majority of the population is reeling in poverty, illiteracy and ill health is a violation of the letter and spirit of our Constitution. The very first sentence of the Indian Constitution says: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens social, economic, political justice …”
We cannot expect the capitalist ruling class, its tool the government, the middle class to act against this trend. It is only the exploited, oppressed masses, through people’s resistance movements, can and will act. When their peaceful protests fail, they may and will have recourse to more forceful and militant action to correct this anomaly. The time is running out.