Essay on Economic Growth without Distributive Justice Is Bound To Breed Violence


Increasing production and thereby enhancing economic growth is a major priority for most developing countries including India. But production alone is not sufficient. The fruits of production must be distributed-in adjust and fair manner.

Development of Thought:


History is witness to the fact that all wars and revolutions the world over are linked to economic causes be it the European war for colonies, the Second World War, the French Revolution, the Marxist revolution or the more recent Gulf war.

Closer home too, Naxalism, Trade Union unrest, Caste wars, the tension in Punjab and the North-east, the growing crime rate in cities are-all linked to the lack of distributive justice and the fact of economic deprivation.

Economic growth on its own does ensure prosperity and peace to a limited extent. But without a just distribution, con­flicts are bound to arise sooner or later as one class of people feels exploit by the other.



Unless proper steps are taken to ensure a proper and just distribution of the fruits economic progress, there is bound to be conflict and violence in society.

The most urgent task before the country immediately after independence was to increase economic production and growth but even then Nehru was care­ful to insist that production by itself would not do.

Addressing businessmen in Delhi in 1947, he had said “Distribution will not look after itself there is no proper distribution, no proper social justice, there will be conflicts on an enor­mous scale.”

Indeed the truth of the statement “Economic Growth without Dis­tributive justice is bound to breed violence” has been borne out many times in history.


All wars and violent conflicts have had their roots in an economic cause whatever may have been the outward act of provocation. If the European powers fought amongst themselves to carve out colonies in the Third World in the earlier centuries, it was because of the huge economic stakes in terms of the wealth of the colonies that were involved.

In the 1990s if the USA and its allies went to war with Iraq it was not just to uphold the values of liberty and free Kuwait, but because of the huge economic interests involved in the oil industry in the Gulf.

While preserving the economic advantage one already possesses, has been a major cause of war, another major cause has been the violence which results from economic deprivation a violence that arises from the unjust distribution of wealth, from having to live in sub-human conditions in ghettos and urban slums while the fruits of economic growth and prosperity are appropriated by the few who have the power and means to do so.

History is again a witness to the violence of the ‘have-note’. The French Revolution which healed the value of liberty, equality and fraternity was a result of the economic deprivation that the French masses suffered under an unjust feudal system.


While the monarchy and aristocracy appropriated the fruits of economic growth, the poor peasants starved. Queen Marie Antoinette’s fa­mous words “If they do not have bread, let them eat cakes” are reflective of the economic injustice perpetrated on the masses, which ultimately led to the violent revolution in which the peasants overthrew the monarchy and aristocracy.

The seeds of World War II were also sown in the economic deprivation that Germany had to suffer after World War I. The allied powers slapped stiff economic sanc­tions against Germany which had to shell out huge amounts as war reparation. German industry was prevented from expanding. All this ultimately led to the rise of Hitler and militant German nationalism in the form of Nazism.

The Russian revolution based on the ideals of Marx was a revolution of the proletariat (masses) against the bourgeoisie (classes) the “have-nots” against the “haves”. Marx traces the entire history of mankind as a struggle between those who have economic power and those who don’t.

Closer home too; we have seen that mere economic growth is not enough. When distributive justice does not accompany it, it is bound to lead to social tensions which when magnified breeds violence. The Naxalite movement is a case in point.


The violence perpetrated by Naxalite arise from their desire to gain justice a distributive justice that they have been deprived of by the rich landlords and zamindars who hold the peasants virtually as bonded labour and point their services to earn phenomenal profits.

The same is true of trade union violence in the industrial sector. The factory worker finds himself inadequately compensated for his bourn and having to work often in unsafe and unhygienic conditions while the profits which the worker has helped earn lines the pockets I of the industrialists.

Many political problems in a also have their roots in the lack of distributive justice. The terrorist problem in Punjab was often attributed to the large scale unemployment among educated youth who were lured to take up arms.

Similarly the continuing tensions and movements of secessions and insurgency in the North- East can be traced to the lack of economic, particularly industrial development in these states.


The North-Eastern states feel that they are being given a step- mother treatment by the Centre which does not sanction enough funds for economic development in these regions.

Similarly, the rising crime rates and incidence of violent riots, in the metro­politan cities like Mumbai are symptomatic of the deeper problems arising from ‘Growth without distributive justice’ Forced to live out their lives in my hovels, in slums, which stand check by jowl with luxurious high rise apartments, the masses are bound to feel a sense of resentment at the injustice. This builds up a simmering discontent which ultimately breaks out in violent demonstrations at some slight provocation.

Even the question of caste wars in India is ultimately a question of distribu­tive justice. It is the more powerful castes who enjoy greater economic power and benefits and it is they who corner the most lucrative jobs and other economic benefits arising out of development.

When the lower castes thus begin to realise that it is economic freedom which can increase their status in society, they are bound to fight for their rights and when forcibly deprived of their rights it could lead to violence.

The whole controversy over the Mandals issue was also linked to the question of economic security of jobs which the forward castes thought they would be losing out on because of the reservation for the Backward Classes.

The Government, however, was right in this case as it was merely correcting an injustice which had been perpetrated on the Backward Classes for centuries.

The founding fathers in their wisdom foresaw the disastrous consequences that growth without social justice could cause and hence ensured reservations in education and jobs for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes who had for centuries been deprived of basic human rights and had been prevented from economic progress.

Had not this right been given constitutionally, there would definitely have been a violent upheaval as awareness among the depressed classes in­creased.

It is true that when there is economic progress in general, to a certain extent the standard of living of every person will go up. Similarly if there is economic growth there will be more jobs and if there are enough jobs; there is no cause for conflict. But human society as it has developed tends to be exploitative.

There will always be sections of people who will benefit more than others from economic development. If left to natural market forces of distribution, there is bound to be some injustice.

Even capitalist countries recognize this act and hence have moved from the concept of pure laissez-faire to the concept of welfare states where the government does provide social security nets for the less privileged sections of society such as the aged, the sick and the unemployed.

Way back it was the late V.K. Krishna Menon who had stated in Parliament that India was not a poor country but a country’ of poor people. The truth of this statement is becoming more a more apparent as time passes on.

In spite of the economic growth achieved since independence, not much dent has been made in solving the problem of poverty. Unless more efforts are made to ensure distribu­tive justice along with growth, violence is bound to be a part of our society.