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Breaking the Silence

Why we don’t talk about inequality—and how to start again

The New Challenge of Inequality

Pratap Bhanu Mehta is President, Center for Policy Research, New Delhi. A winner of the 2011 Infosys Prize for Political Science, he writes on political theory and society and politics in India.


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Readers' Comments

17 thoughts on “Breaking the Silence”

To be honest, this essay is largely pointless. What is inequality? How is it defined? How do we measure it? How has it increased / decreased? What is unique or different about the Indian case vis-a-vis other countries? What strategies are working, and what stratgies are not?

While claiming to redress some of the “cobwebs” around equality, this essay does nothing of the sort. It just makes the same tired laments about the middle class (which, incidentally has increaesd from virtually none at the time of independence to hundreds of millions now, an interesting measure of inequality in itself).

Hopefully Caravan will facilitate some more insightful discussions about this important topic in the future.

Madan,The youth’s interest in the west has to do with their need for vititaly and colour in their lives. In my humble opinion; with the exception of a handful of people who purely pursue a spiritual ideal and are following purely their soul and nothing else, most people lead a mixed life leaning as much on external things for support as within themselves, they look for support in Mind and Soul. The current generation feels a total disconnect from the embellishments of spiritual life such as rituals and rites, religions and traditions etc; which by the way have long ceased to be embellishments but are now serious ill-habits. Repeating the Gayatri Mantra hundred times a day without sincerely listening to each syllable and striving to know its meaning is to me as insincere as religious’ middle-class India’s terrible habit of burping out the word OM’ after every grand meal! But why in the first place would the youth feel this disconnect with religion, with spiritual life? Obviously because they can’t see or haven’t experienced the spirit. Their common sense tells them to go after what they can see. So they turn to the west where they find colour and life. True spiritual experiences come to the patient and perseverant individuals, and therefore might for a long while not be for the masses like the Harry Potter books which appeal to the vital and the imagination alone.

Your cataloging of crpurot practices in India in education, medicine, media and elsewhere is excellent.But the cause of this woeful state of affairs is mis-diagonized Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the reigning tenet not only in India but also in the US, Britain and many other countries. But nowhere are things as dismal as in India, according to your own account.The pursuit of mammon among Hindus is a disease of long term standing, preceding the British.Hindu bhaktas of the middle ages Kabir, Nanak, Chaitanya all sang criticising the love of mammon among the common folks. Kabir: Man lago yaar fakiri men. Jo kucch payo Ram bhajan men, woh sukh nahin amiri men.They sang these songs because they saw the character of the Indian populace addicted to materialism.The Western problem in contrast is pervasiveness of violence in their culture. Many church sermons in the US are on the topic of peace. Jesus is adulated as The Prince of Peace. In India Gandhi was adulated because he abrogated material consumption and took a vow of poverty. So few Indians can forsake materialism.