Book Review

6 books on inequality in India that everyone should read

“Never in the history of India as an independent nation has inequality been so cynically constructed, so systematically engineered as it has been in the past 25-30 years,” P. Sainath

We got a glimpse of it during the COVID 19 lock-down, when lacs of migrants labourers were forced to walk to their villages.It made some of us wonder why can’t they stay where they are? How difficult it is to stay put in their homes rather than walking with their families for miles to go to their villages? Perhaps not knowing the conditions they were living in or not knowing how much they were earning a day and how will they earn when everything is locked?

Most of us living in urban Indian don’t have an iota of inkling about the ever growing inequality among the various sectors and socities across India.We have no idea about the living conditions of a large chunk of Indian population. But there are intellectuals, writers, journalists who are warning us about this inequality and its impact on our society, country and the world.

Here are six books which everyone should read in order to understand not only the Inequality in India but also the working of the government. 

Everybody Loves a Good Drought by P Sainath

Everybody Loves a Good Drought by P.Sainath

Palagummi Sainath (born 1957) is an Indian journalist and photojournalist focusing on social problems, rural affairs, poverty and the aftermath of globalization in India. He was the Rural Affairs Editor at The Hindu before resigning in 2014.Since late 2011, he has been working on People’s Archive of Rural India, PARI,for which he is the Founding Editor. 

Everybody Loves a Good Drought is a book which I got to know during my Executive MBA course and it made me read more about the Sainath and his work. This book is accalimed across the world and prescribed in over 100 colleges. The book is listed among the Century’s Greatest Reportage  (Ordfront, 2000).

This book was first published in 1996 and still remains relevant and a classic reportage. It captures the rural poverty, the unsustainable development which favour only a small section, the misgovernance, rural education, forced migration, water problems and many such other issues concerning the large population of India, which is often neglected.

This is a must read book for everyone to understand inequality and how it is a result of skewed policy decisions most of the time.

Sense and Solidarity by Jean Dreze

Sense And Solidarity - Jholawala Economics for Everyone by jean Drez

Jean Drèze studied Mathematical Economics at the University of Essex and did his PhD (Economics) at the Indian Statistical Institute. He has taught at the London School of Economics and the Delhi School of Economics, and is currently Visiting Professor at Ranchi University.Since 2002, when he became an Indian citizen, he has lived and worked in India.He has made wide-ranging contributions to development economics, with special reference to India.He works in a space that is widely but incorrectly ignored by most.

This book contains essays on subject which are considered bland and boring but are actually very important. Jean presents his research work on various topics like poverty, hunger, drought, primary education, basic healthcare, employment, food security  and many more in simple and easy to understand language. Each essay gives you a deep insight about the topic.

The book primarily provides a perspective on the evolution of social policy and its impact over the last two decades.One will get to know about the historical legislation on right to food and right to education.

A must read to understand the state of the economic and social policies of the country.

Nine Rupees an Hour a book by Aparna Kartihayen

nine rupees an hour: disappearing livelihoods of Tamil Nadu by Aparna Karthikayen

Aparna writes for The Hindu, PARI – People’s Archive of Rural India, The Wire, Scroll, Caravan and other media outlets. Aparna was awarded the 2015 National Media Award by the National Foundation for India for her work on “Vanishing livelihoods of rural Tamil Nadu”. In 2018, she authored a children’s book each for Pratham Books and Karadi Tales. 

This book is a primarily collection of essays about the rural Tamil and the vanishing traditional jobs which is resulting in either people changing their jobs or migrating to cities. It also talks about the agrarian crisis, the water crisis and other factors which are forcing people to change their jobs and thus forcefully migrating them to cities.

Though all the essays in the book are about rural Tamil Nadu and the traditional jobs being vanished, but it does tell you that how system is unfair towards the poor. 

A must read to understand the rural India and the various challenges they face.

looking away by Harsh Mander

Looking Away by Harsh mander

Harsh Mander, writer, human rights worker, columnist, researcher and teacher, works with survivors of mass violence and hunger as well as with homeless persons and street children.

In the book Harsh Mander presents the various facets of inequality in India post liberalization. He talks about the increasing prosperity among the middle classes and above and at the same time increasing poverty and hunger among the poorer section of the society. Along with that he also talks about the current government’s political ideology and how that has made the minorities more vulnerable. 

The book also points out the general apathy of individuals and government towards the marginalized section of the society. The author makes a strong  and passionate argument to come together to set things right if we want to grow and prosper as a country.

A must read to understand our prejudices and more worryingly our indifference as individual and as a society.

Where India Goes a book by Diane Coffey and Dean Spears on Open Defecation in India

Where India Goes: Abandoned Toilets, Stunted Development and the Costs of Caste by Diane Coffey & David Spears

Diane Coffey and Dean Spears are visiting researchers at the Economics and Planning Unit of the Indian Statistical Institute in Delhi, assistant professors at the University of Texas at Austin and executive directors of r.i.c.e., a research institute for compassionate economics.

This book came in year 2017 and as the name suggest it is about open defecation and how that is a serious problem in India. Apart from addressing the direct health hazards of open defecation the author duo also reflects on the reasons behind it.  They also  talk about the menace of manual scavenging and how inhuman practice it is. Data driven essays explaining the topic lucidly.  

A must read to understand the problem and the reason behind open defecation and what can be done to overcome this problem.

A fest of Vultures a book by Josey Joseph

A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India by Josey Joseph

Josy Joseph is an award-winning investigative journalist.Among the investigative stories he has published are the Adarsh Apartment scam, Naval War Room Leak case, several aspects of the Commonwealth Games scandal, the 2G spectrum allocation scam, and other corrupt and nepotistic government decisions.

This book is a result of two decades of investigative journalism by the author. Primarily talks about “how India works”, the middleman, the private sector and the people who are above everybody. How things are done in India and who controls everything. It exposes the nexus between the politicians and the big corporate houses and how the rich are getting rich and poor are getting poorer.

A must read for everyone to understand the problems that India is facing. The book  boldly exposes the offenders in the loot in collusion with government and bureaucracy. 

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