A book by Pradeep Baisakh

As a part of the “Faces of Inequality Campaign” by GCAP, Pradeep Baisakh, Asia Coordinator of GCAP has written a book with the same title, highlighting the most marginalized voices from India. The book is available as an e-book and paperback.

Amid the talks of a five trillion dollar Indian economy, there is still an India where people struggle to arrange two square meals a day. Many strive hard for basic needs of food, health and education. Often unheard and ignored, these voiceless people mostly don’t matter to the mainstream media. This book, through various ground reports over a decade and a half, captures the stories of the most marginalised people of society.

The comparison made in the book of the luxurious life in a metro city and a precarious life in a village depicts the stark reality of discrimination in India. The money spent in a Delhi pub in a night, if saved, can feed a village consisting of 250 families in Balangir district of Odisha, an Indian province for a month. And this is inequality!

The book discusses the evolution of the inequality debate in the global level and in India. A large percentage of population is poor because a few people are super-rich and the global economic system is designed to generate and foster such inequality. The ’Occupy Wall Street’ protest in New York in 2011 used the slogan, ’We are the 99’ signifies concentration of wealth in the top one per cent. The book goes beyond the intellectual discussion on inequality and attempts to give a human face to inequality – the “Faces of Inequality”!

Amitabh Behar, Chief Executive Officer, OXFAM India and Columnist

‘Faces of Inequality’ is a powerful and disturbing account of obscene inequality in India and how it has been normalised. Pradeep (Baisakh) makes a fascinating contribution to the literature and discourse on inequality by taking it out of the academic and policy circles to the lived reality of ordinary and common people. This book will force any thinking person to engage with inequality as a personal moral dilemma and hopefully encourage them to take action.

The book has 44 articles, which are reproduction of author’s grassroot based write-ups published in various newspapers and journals in India and abroad in last fifteen years. The issues covered are starvation, distress migration, employment guarantee act, right to information, forest issues, self-help movement, industrialisation and violence, agrarian distress and farmers suicide, disaster etc.

All the reports should serve as a warning bell till the time another man dies of starvation in Odisha, a girl is raped in brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh and a poor child is forced to work in the cotton fields of Gujarat. These are not mere real-life stories but a chronicle of policy and governance failures. The reports analyse the systemic causes of such failures.

Beckie Malay, Global Civil Society Leader, the Philippines and former Co-Chair, GCAP

Pradeep’s unique insights into the lives of the marginalised and invisible come from his deep understanding of their lives. He relates their stories in his book, “Faces of Inequality” very well because he relates with them!

The government is always in denial whenever there is a report of alleged starvation death or a farmer’s suicide. The book discusses the plight of millions of migrant workers who walked hundreds of kilometres during the COVID induced lockdown in 2019, to reach their homes. A story narrates the ordeal of Rakesh, a homeless migrant worker, who breaks down while asking for food during lockdown.

But all is not lost. There are rays of hope amid the bleak picture! Many positive stories show us how, with the right policy interventions and community effort, the lives of the marginalised can flourish.

Foreword of the book is written by Dr Devinder Sharma, food and agriculture policy analyst and an authoritative voice on farmers’ issue in India.

The book is useful for policy maker, social workers, researchers and people who are in the upper strata of society but are often oblivious of how the other India lives.