“An economic growth does not mean anything unless it’s an inclusive growth”

Development is the process of economic and social transformation in which something grows or changes and becomes more advanced.

When we think of development, the things that are commonly perceived are rapid urbanization and an increase in living standards of people. The image of an improved state comes to mind where everyone is happy and better-off. But while fantasizing about the concept of development, we often tend to omit certain important questions about the same. Does development really make everyone better off? And who are the cost bearers of this present model of development?

Development should ideally create a better environment to live in and increase the standard of living of all the people in a society. It should, in theory, benefit everyone and make everyone better off. But sadly, that is not the case. In the process of development, some people disproportionately bear the burden for the development of a larger section of society. And even though the model of our economy is supposed to be socialist and promote equality, more often than not, the people who have to pay the expense of this development are the poor and marginalized sections of society.

The truth lies in the fact that we live in a capitalist economy where the needs of the richer sections take primacy over those of the poor. A capitalist or a market economy calls for market forces of demand and supply to command price and often results in increasing the gap between the haves and the have-nots. In order for the government to sustain and incur its expenditures, the act of lobbying, which is influencing a legislator often through money, is often practiced. Even though lobbying is not legalized in India, yet the wealthy sections unduly influence the policies framed and make sure that they are advantageous to them.

The loss caused by these models of development is imminent from the ever-increasing rise in income disparities both in India as well as the entire world. As per the reports of Credit Suisse in 2018, The world’s richest 1 percent own 45 percent of the world’s wealth. In India, the statistics are even worse. According to Oxfam India reports 2018, India’s top 1% of the population holds 73% of the wealth.

Taking the common example of a building of dams for hydro-electricity, it is usually the tribal and the poor communities that have to suffer and pay the price of the development. They are the ones who are relocated so that others could benefit from the development process. A famous case to support this is the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam where about 41000 families were displaced, most of which were the poor and tribal people to whom adequate relocation was not provided. Similarly, when forests have to be cut for industrialization or urbanization, it is the poor and the marginalized societies that suffer indiscriminately.

It is easy to understand and comprehend that this present model of development is neither just nor feasible in the long-run. A world of utopia would call upon finding ways of development through which no one suffers and everyone stands to gain. But since this is practically almost impossible, we need to think of more viable alternatives. Firstly, a proper stakeholder analysis needs to be done regarding every policy undertaken whereby the people who stand to suffer are minimum and benefit-reapers the maximum. Secondly, it must be ensured that the sections that stand to lose get proper compensation through other programs and the state should make sure that such programs are effectively implemented. Moreover, it must be seen that various policies are made for the less prosperous sections of society as well and not just the rich sections so that effectively the entire population can be a part of the path of the development process.

In the end, I would simply like to reiterate that we should shift towards a more just and fair path of development which ensures that, even though at a different pace, the entire society gets on the path of development and its cost is shared equitably. The principle of “the needs of the many outbid the needs of the few” shall be followed only if it is not always the poor that constitute of the “few” and if substantial schemes and programs are implemented to uplift those “few” as well so that everyone gets on the path of development.

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