Billionaires and the Pandemic

WEALTH distribution data are notoriously difficult to interpret. This is because variations in stock prices affect wealth distribution, so that a stock market boom suddenly makes the rich appear much richer, while a stock market collapse makes wealth distribution less unequal overnight. In other words, the fact that the rich hold a part of their wealth in the form of stocks makes it difficult to estimate their total wealth which now has one durable component and another that is potentially evanescent.

The Move towards a De Facto Unitary State

FEDERALISM is one of the basic features of the Indian constitution. In the constituent assembly, Professor K T Shah wanted the term “federal”, together with the term “secular”, included in the preamble itself, but Dr Ambedkar rejected it on the grounds that the federal and secular character of the republic was understood and did not need specification. The constitution in its seventh schedule spelt out the jurisdictions of the centre and the states in two lists, and areas of common jurisdiction in a third list.

Modi’s Agriculture Bills Push Imperialist Agenda

THE two bills rammed through parliament last week were objectionable in every conceivable sense. The very fact of their being rammed through the Rajya Sabha, without being put to vote despite demands for a division, was grossly anti-democratic. The fact of the centre making unilateral and fundamental changes in agricultural marketing arrangements which fall within the state list of the seventh schedule of the constitution was a blow against federalism.

A Government Unequal to the Task

A STRIKING aspect of the 24 per cent decline in GDP in the first quarter of 2020-21 compared to the previous year’s first quarter is the decline by 10.3 per cent in public administration, defence and other public services. This is a sector where the GDP is estimated not by the “output” of the sector but by the government expenditure incurred under these heads. The decline in the GDP originating in this sector therefore means a decline in public expenditure.

The Indian Economy on the Verge of Collapse

THE GDP growth in the first quarter (April-June) of 2020 over the first quarter of the previous year has been minus 24 per cent according to preliminary official estimates. But most knowledgeable people believe that even this is an underestimate of the actual contraction brought about by the lockdown. In fact, a former chief statistician of India, Pronab Sen, believes that the actual contraction would have been about 32 per cent. Others put the figure even higher.

GST Compensation: Centre’s Bizarre Stand

WHEN the Goods and Services Tax was introduced, and the states virtually gave up the power to levy indirect taxes which they had enjoyed under the constitution, the centre had solemnly promised that it would compensate them for a period of five years for any revenue shortfall arising from the shift to GST. The shortfall was to be assessed relative to what revenue should have been, assuming a 14 per cent rate of growth. It is this promise which had persuaded many states to fall in line behind the GST.

An Elementary Misconception about the Hindu Rashtra

THE BJP as we know is a Hindu-supremacist party. It is the political front of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a fascistic organisation which believes in establishing a Hindu rashtra. Though the BJP itself cannot openly espouse this vision because of its need to remain within the four corners of the constitution, it is trying its best to realise this vision de facto. But what does a Hindu rashtra really mean? The fact that it entails the subversion of secularism and the reduction of the Muslim minority, in particular, to the status of second class citizens, is clear.

Lebanese Portents

THE tragic events unfolding in Lebanon are a portent of things to come for the entire third world. Lebanon, a small, highly import-dependent country, has been in the grip of an economic crisis for quite some time as the world recession has become more acute; and with the coronavirus crisis, Lebanon’s economy has been reduced to utterly dire straits.