WHO says India is a land of poor people? According to the World Wealth Report released recently by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, India appears to be adding millionaires at a fairly fast clip with about 72 new high net worth individuals getting added each day in 2010. Thanks to the allegedly robust economic growth, the millionaire count in India has risen from 1,26,700 in 2009 to 1,53,000 in 2010. Apparently the total number of Indian millionnaires has seen a growth rate of 20.8 per cent and there has been a rising demand in India for the Mercedes Benz.
Quoting the report The Economic Times (June 24 ) said that India now has the world’s largest High Networth Individuals (HNIs) after it replaced Spain. Money obviously not only makes the mare run, it can also purchase paintings. It is not just MF Husain or Gaitonde that sell. According to The Telegraph ( June 21) a painting of Goddess Kali by Tyeb Mehta went for Rs 5.72 crore, not less. As paintings go,it an awful bit, but who cares? Like Husain, Tyeb Mehta is very much in demand. It seems that on June 9, another Mehta painting titled Rickshaw puller fetched around $ 3,238,103 or around Rs 14 crore. Compared to that poor G Ravinder Reddy could sell one of his paintings at an estimated Rs 40 lakh though Manjit Bawa’s Nayika got him Rs 1.08 crore. SH Raza’s Carcassonne, sold for Rs 87 lakh. Chicken feed. But apparently these days artists and writers are making lots of money.
In an interview the other day to The New Age (June 19) Amitav Ghosh, the well known author whose recent fiction has just been released told his interviewer that he was spending on each of his two children over $ 50,000 a year for college education! Fancy that! He didn’t mention where he was sending his two children for a college education? To the United States? To England? Amitav Ghosh does not speak too highly of Oxford. Listen to him. He told a reviewer: “When I went from Delhi University to Oxford, I thought I was going into a place where there’s so much higher learning, so much a ‘life of the mind’ – and it has been exactly the opposite. My education in Delhi had been much better than anything Oxford could have provided….” Hear, hear. The trouble is that most of our rich folk tend to believe that only a White man’s university can provide great education. There is a lot of humbug about that. Indian parents are needlessly wasting money in sending their children to universities abroad. That will only help bloat their arrogance.
This brings us to another issue: Salaries of journalists. The Indian Newspaper Society (INS), the apex body of small, medium and large newspaper establishments across all languages, representing 441 small, 315 medium and 261 large members has recently warned that many newspapers will have to shut down if the recommendations of the Justice Majithia Wage Board are accepted. Earlier, INS president Kundan Vyas had said in a statement issued that the Majithia Report was “severely flawed and utterly one-sided and, if accepted by the government would “drive several newspaper establishments out of business”. That is a serious charge. The one thing great about the Indian media is that it has shown courage to take on the high and the mighty. But for how long? The Press Trust of India (PTI) has also complained that the Wage Board recommendations, if implemented, would have far-reaching adverse implications on its future whereby its modest profit would be wiped out and it would go into the red immediately. This is because staff costs already make up 60 per cent of PTI’s expenses and only around five per cent of the country’s 7,000 dailies subscribe to it and any further hike may mean more subscribers giving up the service. And that would just be terrible. But that is how the newspaper proprietors look at the situation. Ask the journalists working for their papers. They want better salaries and have already expressed their feelings. Obviously there has to be some kind of compromise between employer and employee. The operative word is ‘flexibility’. It is easy for Committees and Boards to lay down rules, but there should be some flexibility in enforcing them. A word for the wise should be sufficient.
Meanwhile, think of this: According to The Indian Express (June 29) inflation has cost Indians Rs 5.8 trillion between 2008-09 to 2010-11, this, according to a study by CRISIL Research, India’s largest independent research house, despite the fact that prices of several commodities actually declined which is a contradiction in terms. Actually inflation was due to rising cost of food items and that hits everybody hard. The middle and upper classes will still go for the purchase of television sets, may be washing machines and air conditioners, but what about the lower classes? Salaries of the upper middle classes are skyrocketing and it is those in the lower grace – and they are the majority – who suffer most. Reference was recently made to this by one whom Business Line (June 22) called “the economist’s economist”, namely Prof Suresh Tendulkar who passed away a couple of days earlier. In an obituary written by TCA Srinivasa Raghavan, the point was made that Tendulkar took “a good hard look at the way government servants were paid and was appalled”. Tendulkar had come to the conclusion (a) that government servants were paid far more than the public realised through all sorts of hidden benefits and (b) that their emoluments needed to be linked to efficiency in some manner.
More significantly, Tendulkar had come to the conclusion that “not as many Indians were as poor as generally believed”. Now how many would believe that? Let us not forget that Prof Tendulkar has always been held in high regard, even by such economists as Dr Manmohan Singh. Could he have possibly been wrong in his assessment? But then how many people are poor as is “generally believed”? Some 65 per cent? Fifty per cent, perhaps? Or may be 35 per cent? Even if it is 25 per cent, one wouldn’t like to belong to that class. Economists may be brilliant with figures and may argue endlessly about their findings but how one wishes they were also human and would apply their minds how to erase that low percentage of poverty among Indians! What is to be regretted is that while the passing away of Prof Tendulkar has been noticed by the media, there have been other deaths of leading citizens which have gone unnoticed by the majority of the English media. Sad.