The poor and the working class representing both the below (BPL) and above the poverty lines (APL) with monthly income less than Rs. 10,000 each represent nearly 70 per cent of the country's population. Ironically, the average polling in most constituencies in the country rarely exceeded 70 per cent.
It seems the real beneficiary of the so-called popular democracy and the universal adult franchise in India are the politicians, businessmen and their agents, money managers, bureaucrats and the officialdom. The number of these classes of population, the wealth they possess or control and power they enjoy has vastly increased over the last sixty years of India's popular democracy.
Demographically speaking, the vast increase in the population of these groups of highly privileged people, who may be branded as the rich, controlling over 80 per cent of the country's wealth, should have led to a sizeable reduction in the number of the poor. In reality, the reverse has taken place.
The number of the poor and the common man had expanded several times in the last six decades, making the divide between the rich and the poor much wider and sharper than they were in the early 1950s, when the universal adult franchise first started. Since then, social injustice and inequity among the poor have become deeper.
If any single factor is responsible for the decline of the status of the poor and the increase in its number over the years, it is the apathy of our democratically elected representatives in the Government towards education, healthcare, social infrastructure and living-wage for the underprivileged.
The state-funded free primary schools for the poor and Government-aided secondary education system are in total shambles in terms of quality and utility. Most Government hospitals and health centres, visited largely by the underprivileged, are generally a one-way traffic for patients.
Those who manage to return home 'cured' often come back with secondary infection because of an extremely unhealthy condition and poor housekeeping in these Government hospitals and health centres.
The least spoken about the social infrastructure and the level of sanitation and potable filter water connection in the areas dwelled by the underprivileged is the best. Incapable of or even unwilling to improve the quality of life of the underprivileged by efficiently managing the state-funded schools, health centres and social infrastructure, which would have certainly narrowed down the rich-poor divide, the elected governments by the poor are out to ominously privatise these services to the further misery of these social underdogs.
Thus, it would appear that the Government by the poor is not only off the poor, but also against the poor. The Government subsidy, which was originally designed for the benefit of the poor, had in fact helped the business community more through whom subsidy was disbursed to keep the prices of food, fuel, fertilizer and low-cost housing lower and affordable.
What those poor and the underprivileged actually got was only a trickle. Now that the Government has been made to understand by its outdated laissez-faire oriented economists that the subsidy is a drain on the exchequer, the whole administration is on a pricing freedom mode, from petro-products, cooking gas, fertilizer and life-saving drugs to electricity and drinking water.
This, along with rampant export of food articles and legalizing commodity futures and options trade, is fiercely adding to inflation. It seems our politicians and political parties, the Left included, have taken the electorate for granted. There is hardly any real concern to improve the lot of those who religiously come to vote in every election to create governments in States and at the centre.
The system may be considered safe as long as poverty, lack of education and fear of repression keep weakening the morale of this large section of the civil society. Till then, the oligarchy of the rich will continue to dominate the Government at the cost of poor democrats.