The Global Risks Report 2017 has identified income inequality as a result of the neo-liberal policies to be the top most threat to the world order. What are the ill-effects of inequality on societies? Discuss while highlighting the extent of inequality in India.

India is regarded as one of the most unequal country in the world with inequality levels growing at an alarmingly fast pace. The Global Risks Report also mentions that richest 1% of India owned nearly 60% of the country’s total wealth.
There are many ill effects of inequality on societies. For one, income inequality erodes trust, increases anxiety, encourages excessive consumption. Further, a  strong correlation between higher levels of national inequality and a wide range of social problems like higher rates of drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, violence and higher rates of health problems has been established in various researches.  Particularly worrying is the fact that rising inequality has become a major driver behind the emergence of authoritarian leaders championing a divisive agenda poisoned by sectarianism, xenophobia and nationalism. It is also the reason for increasing conflicts such as full scale civil conflict and war.
Inequality destroys the soul of nations, communities and societies. It destroys the very fabric of a society and its social capital. Social capital is important for all people irrespective of whether they are rich or poor to feel that they belong to same society and have a stake in a shared future.
Reducing inequality is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But, reducing inequality requires a strong political will as political parties would not like to support policies that hurt their own patrons and financiers. Many middle income countries have achieved strong growth all the while containing and reducing income inequality. Hence, urgent steps are needed form the government to contain income inequality before it threatens our vision of sustainable development.

Question for UPSC Mains:
The Global Risks Report 2017 has identified income inequality as a result of the neo-liberal policies to be the top most threat to the world order. What are the ill-effects of inequality on societies? Discuss while highlighting the extent of inequality in India.

Published: March 5, 2017 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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