Sunday, January 22, 2017

For Catholic leaders, the Indian Church must speak out against inequality

http://www.asianews.it/files/img/INDIA_-_0117_-_Disuguaglianza.jpgIndia’s Catholic Church has to raise speak out against inequality, some Catholic leaders told AsiaNews, following the latest international report on development that puts India behind countries like China and Pakistan.
 
For John Dayal, former president of the Catholic Union of India, "government policies are exacerbating the marginalisation of tribal communities. The Church must awaken the conscience of the nation and tell the truth to the powerful. But it is not fully doing this.”

According to a report on inequality released yesterday by Oxfam, a global confederation of NGOs against poverty and social injustice, 1 per cent of India's population owns 58 per cent of all the country's wealth. This makes India a society that is far more divided than its Asian neighbours.

“Recent reports have put India lower than China and Pakistan in a comprehensive development index, with the insecurity of the working class among the worst,” said the Catholic activist, who is a member of the National Integration Council of India.

With respect to welfare, "India has no social security, and absolutely no medical and health insurance for the poor,” Dayal noted. “This means that about two thirds of the population risk death by disease for want of treatment even though India is emerging as one of a major centre for medical tourism for those who can afford it."

According to the Oxfam report, 57 Indian billionaires possess as much wealth as the poorest 70 per cent who struggle to survive.

Worldwide, eight men across the world are as wealthy as the poorest 50 per cent of the world’s population.

A mere 500 people will bequeath wealth worth US$ 2.1 trillion – more than the current gross domestic product of India – to their heirs over the next 20 years.

"Thinking of development as GDP numbers is misleading and dishonest,” said Valson Thampu. “It is a sophisticated sham for it has no reference to the development-empowerment of citizens.”

For Thampu, who is a former principal of St Stephen's College, Delhi, “the foremost emphasis in development should be on education. Individuals and societies cannot be developed meaningfully except through education."

Activist Jugal Kishore Ranjit believes that the inequality "is the consequence of Brahminism, which is based on the caste system and capitalism.”

“Brahminism supports capitalism and vice versa. Property accumulation extracts blood from the common man. Companies profit from public money, but keep profits to themselves." 

Positive change can come only if "individuals and companies decide to redistribute the profits among the poor."

“India,” noted Fr Ajaya Kumar Singh, director of the Odisha Forum for Social Action, " declared itself to be a socialist and democratic country, but today crony capitalism reigns supreme.”

For him, “Rich companies should take proper social responsibility.” Instead, “What happened recently with demonetisation* shows that India is a land for the business people.”

“About 1,400 billion rupees (US$ 20.6 billion) in corporate debts were erased, but nothing has been done for social welfare and education. "

* India's recent demonetisation refers to the removal of legal tender from its 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes.

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