Wealth RedistributionApril 23, 2024by Monika Halan0I’m scared, Mr Dubey. Therefore I ask questions.

In today’s Hindustan Times Amitabh Dubey, a member of the Indian National Congress party’s manifesto committee has implied that I am a scaremonger. You can read this 23 April 2024 piece here.

I have a few questions on this name calling.

  1. How is a citizen asking genuine questions about the intention of a political party and its plans, if elected, amount to ‘scaremongering’? For those who missed it, you can read the questions in my 17 April 2024 op-ed here. Mr Dubey’s rebuttal gives us the impression that the party wants no questions asked of its intentions.
  2. Mr Dubey says that the word redistribution is not used in the manifesto. I have not attributed the redistribution promise to the manifesto in my questions, so it seems Mr Dubey is resorting to distractionary tactics here. However, there is a bylined story in the Times of India that has quoted Mr Rahul Gandhi saying exactly that. You can read the 7 April 2024 report here. If one column that asks simple questions can get the Congress party to give a rebuttal through an op-ed, why did the party not refute (and has still not refuted) the original report that the column is based on? In fact, the Times of India report was widely used by other papers – why are those reports not rebutted and taken down?
  3. Why does the Congress party not clearly state that there will be no redistribution of income and wealth? Say it and end the confusion right away.
  4. Earlier, on 17 April 2024, Mr Dubey’s colleague Mr Jairam Ramesh, in response to my questions, wrote on Twitter:

“To make the distribution of economic growth more equitable, we need a survey of the ownership of assets and the representation of people in the institutions of our democracy. It is unjustifiable that a modern economy relies on data from 1931 to allocate resources. What we need therefore, is a caste Census combined with a survey of national assets and governance systems, which is updated from time to time.

This survey of caste groups, national assets, and representation in governance systems – collectively called a comprehensive socio-economic Caste Census – is the only solution to ensure an India with equal opportunity for all. Equal opportunity is the objective.”

The link to that post, accessed at 10:27 am on 23 April 2024, is here.

That said, I have a few more questions for Mr Ramesh’s and Mr Dubey’s rebuttals on this issue:

4a. Will this survey be of only institutions or of individuals as well?

4b. If this survey is of institutions, will it be institutions such as ISRO, IIMs, IITs, NSE, courts, defense land, temple trusts, Wakf land, church land, co-operatives? What does the party have in mind when it says institutions? Some clarity will be useful.

4c. If it is individuals who are surveyed – how will that happen? Will the government surveyor enter our homes and rummage through our cupboards? Many housewives, as you know, keep cash and gold as their security – will these be pulled out and surveyed as well? What about the contents of our lockers? Our financial assets? Our properties? What will be the legal force that enables such coercive actions?

4d. Will agricultural land be part of the survey? Will landless farm workers, and poor, small and marginal farmers get the land taken away from large and wealthy farmers?

4e. Many Indians, including some politicians in high places, allegedly have their wealth outside the country. Will there be diplomatic deals with 194 other countries for this wealth to be surveyed? Within this, the legitimate wealth that passes through the Reserve Bank of India through KYC norms may be easy to track. But how will unaccounted-for wealth be captured?

4f. What happens to our right to privacy? Will it be nullified through a constitutional amendment?

I ask these questions because I have memories as a child of my father not coming back one evening from Delhi University where he taught. This is the time of the Emergency and his colleagues were getting picked up and taken to jail – they just disappeared. I remember the cold sweat of the thought of losing my father as a young kid to a draconian government. I remember my mother’s panic and sense of sheer helplessness. I ask these questions today because I never want my country to go back to that time where a government can use its power to smash human rights the way I have seen happen in my childhood. Luckily for us, my father had just had an accident and not been picked up. An accident, a broken bone and bloodied clothes were better than him disappearing from our lives. At that time, we did not know how long the Emergency will continue. And how long before we got our civil liberties back.

That’s why I ask questions, Mr Dubey.

This is not ‘scaremongering’

It is trying to understand what the Indian National Congress might have in mind when it talks of surveys and jitni aabadi utna haq.

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