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Rising Inequality: Debating Factors

Manjur Ali

By T.K. Oommen
Orient BlackSwan, Noida, 2014, pp. 309, Rs. 725.00


Inclusion and exclusion are two contradictory processes which coexist in both the developed and developing countries. The widening gap between rich and poor across the world is an instant example of exclusion. According to the Oxfam International Report the ‘richest 85 people on the globe control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together.’ Intellectuals and policymakers, across the world, have been trying to figure out the factors responsible for rising inequality. In India, scholars like Amartya Sen have explained about the varying nature of exclusion. The concepts of ‘Active’ and ‘Passive’ exclusion are an important contribution by him. The Government of India too recognized the importance of inclusion. In three volumes of the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP), the word inclusive has appeared 217 times. Inclusive, according to the FYP, has various meanings such as poverty reduction, group equality, regional balance, reducing inequality, empowerment and employment generation. However, the inclusion and exclusion debate across the world is centered on the economic aspect. Our country is no exception to that. Push for economic inclusion has strengthened since economic reform began. This is the period when inequality has grown which suggests that inequality is an inbuilt feature of the free-market system which was propagated as the ultimate saviour of humankind. The lacuna doesn’t end here. The capitalist mode of production keeps ascriptive identities, which are a source of exclusion, at the margin. This has been clearer in the post- 2014 election. Development emerges as the focal point of government policy direction. Narendra Modi led government has been trying to propagate its association only with economic policy—minimum government and maximum governance. The social and political agendas have been left to be taken care of by the Rashtriya Swamsewak Sangh (RSS). The Prime Minister is least vocal about the widening social faultlines, leading to the marginalization of the deprived section. The relevance of the book under review emerges in this context. Divided into 11 chapters with an elaborate introduction the goal of the book is to locate the bases on which different categories are excluded in Independent India and identify appropriate approaches for their inclusion. The author has tried to bring back social/ascriptive identities to the helm of discussion. At the onset, Oommen has identified three sources of exclusion which are not shared by other countries. Apart from poverty, patriarchy, racism, rural-urban disparity, India has religion, language, and caste ...

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