India and it’s ‘Segregated Growth’

This article tries to show that high rates of GDP in India need not trickle down to the rest of the masses and also strives to explain why ‘segregated growth’ further fuels inequality. By ‘segregated growth’, I refer to growth which takes place in sectors which employ relatively a small percentage of the total labour force.

The IT revolution is happening but the GDP contribution of agriculture is decreasing.’ One inference from this change could be that, labour from agriculture is migrating to the services sector; but that is not the case in India. India is witnessing farmer suicides, increased debts, droughts and low productivity in the agricultural sector.

Sustained economic growth requires progress in several dimensions ‘ education, health, infrastructure, legal institutions, etc. [Noll 2006] For the whole of the population to enjoy sustainable growth, it is essential that growth takes place in all sectors of the economy. Otherwise, it will lead to growth, but only in a few sectors, like the IT boom which India faced. This growth is not sustainable in the long run. Another consequence of such ‘segregated growth’ is that, the GDP figures will show an increase. And as the GDP is the most commonly used (By the media) measure among the masses to portray economic growth, the picture presented will appear rosy.

Moreover, the per capita income will also show a rise due to the increase productivity coming from ‘such sectors’. This increased GDP will not trickle down as many economists and others state. This increased income accruing to the denizens of ‘such sectors’ will only be spent in conspicuous consumption. Thorstein Veblen coined the words ‘conspicuous consumption’ in his book ‘The Theory of the Leisure Class’. The basis on which good repute in any highly organised industrial community ultimately rests is pecuniary strength; and the means of showing pecuniary strength, and so of gaining or retaining a good name are leisure and a conspicuous consumption of goods. [Veblen 1899]

On Poverty

And though the country (India) has made significant strides ‘ poverty levels are roughly 35%, down from close to 60% in the 1970s, (by the World bank’s $ 1 a day definition of poverty, though precise numbers are the subject of never-ending debate) – the benefits of this rapid growth are yet to trickle down to the masses. [Bhusnurmath 2006]

Development agencies define poverty as an income of less than $2 per person per day (about $3,000 annually for a family of four). By this standard, nearly 3 billion people are poor. [Noll 2006]

I wonder why India still defines poverty as an income of less than a dollar per day for a person. I had argued for a restructuring of the current poverty line in another article of mine. Probably the present estimate makes it easier to state that poverty levels have come down from 60% to around 35%!

On Development

Amit Bhaduri, in his recent paper in the Economic and Political Weekly, wonders if it is Developmental Terrorism or Development which is taking place.

Destruction of livelihoods and displacement of the poor in the name of industrialisation, big dams for power generation and irrigation, corporatisation of agriculture despite farmers’ suicides, and modernisation and beautification of our cities by demolishing slums are showing everyday how development can turn perverse. [Bhaduri 2007]


Thus, the Indian populace is dichotomized in terms of economic growth; there are certain areas where growth levels are very high along with a majority of sectors which are witnessing a decline. Thus, this kind of ‘segregated growth’ fails to ‘trickle down’ to other sectors of the economy.


1) Roger Noll, The Foreign Aid Paradox, SIEPR Policy Brief, October 2006.

2) Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899. (Full book available here)

3) Mythili Bhusnurmath, Time for a reality check,, November 25, 2006.

4) Amit Bhaduri, Development or Developmental Terrorism’, EPW, February 17, 2007.

The Real Economy of India

Economy: Main Constituents

Agriculture sector or otherwise known as the ‘primary sector’ comprises agriculture and allied activities like crop production, horticulture, plantation crops, farm mechanization, land development and reclamation, digging of wells, tube wells and irrigation projects, forestry, construction of cold storages and warehouses, processing of agri-products, finance to agri-input dealers, allied activities like dairy, fisheries, poultry, sheep-goat, piggery and rearing of silk worms.

Industrial sector or the Secondary sector consists mainly of mining and quarrying; manufacturing and electricity; gas and supply.

The services sector or the tertiary sector includes trade, hotels, restaurants, transport storage and communication; financing, insurance, real estate and business services; community, social and personal services and construction.

Gross Domestic Product(GDP)

According to the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO), the Indian economy recorded a real GDP growth of 8.0 per cent in the second quarter of 2005-06.

When an economy grows at, say 5 %, it implies that the average growth of the 3 sectors within the economy, namely agriculture, industrial and services are growing at an average rate of 5%.

The data by CSO says that, the agricultural growth in real terms during the second quarter (July-September) of 2005-06, is 2.0; industrial sector 7.6 and tertiary sector 9.8.

The slow growth of the primary sector has been mainly attributed to the weak monsoons.

Business Expectation: A digression

Business expectation surveys suggest that the current phase of industrial activity is likely to continue in the near future. According to the Reserve Bank’s latest Industrial Outlook Survey, the Business Expectations Index for January-March 2006 quarter increased by 2.4 per cent over the previous quarter. Survey results indicate that employment, selling prices, imports and profit margins are expected to improve during the quarter January-March 2006 vis-‘-vis October-December 2005.

What the ‘growth’ comprises

The area under kharif crops was 1.2 per cent higher than a year ago, led by increased area under rice, maize, pulses and sugarcane. As regards rabi crops, the area coverage as on January 2, 2006 was 1.5 per cent higher than a year ago on account of increased coverage in respect of major crops such as wheat and rapeseed.

The mining and electricity sectors, on the other hand, recorded a deceleration. The sharp slowdown in the mining sector may be attributable in part to a decline in production of crude oil caused by the break-out of fire in the Mumbai-High oil field in July 2005 and the adverse impact of heavy rainfall on coal mining activities. Lower growth in the electricity sector is attributable to shortage of coal and gas.

Robust growth in the cellular subscriber base broadband connections supported the strong growth in the communication sector.

Sustained growth in bank deposits and non-food credit as well as increased exports of information technology enabled services boosted the sub-sector ‘financing, insurance, real estate and business services’.

These are some of the reasons mentioned by the RBI for the growth in real GDP.

Growth projections

Agencies like ADB, CII, CRISIL, NCAER, IMF and RBI have projected the Real Gross Domestic Product for India during 2005-06 to be over and around 7.0. This reflects a bright prospect for the people of India. Is it so’

Current Scene

Link: The Hindu


The current GDP rate is exuberating and so are the projections. All the hype is on the growth rate. The politicians’ rhetoric is that India is growing as its GDP is rising. The agricultural sector is weak, structurally. More reason to be worried is because of the fact that more than 50% of the Indian populace are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. The number of farmer suicides in Vidarbha and even in highly literate states like Kerala, speaks of discontentment. Relying only on the GDP and expecting the ‘trickle down effects’ to comply is nonsensical. Even if the high rates of GDP brought forth positive externalities, the time lag required for ‘these benefits’ to reach the masses would be large.

It is a commendable and laudable fact that India is improving it’s IT related exports. IT sector definitely seems resplendent.

Even if ‘trickle down effects’ ensued, all the benefits have gone to the middle class sector. More people are becoming better off with this sector.

The main concern is that of sustaining the realised growth of services and improving upon the primary and secondary sectors. The issue of ‘sustainable development’ should be our main concern. Lop sided development cannot be sustainable in the long run. Therefore, resting on a weak agricultural base is dangerous.


1) RBI: Third Quarter Review 2005-06, The Real Economy .