Has India’s Gilded Age Lost Its Luster?
Sinha, in his current role as a partner with Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam, has determined some ways to help end India’s Gilded Age, then help it evolve into a more progressive economic era.
At the top of Sinha’s list is taxing the transfer of extreme wealth from generation to generation. “There is no estate tax in India, which allows wealthy families to keep compounding their vast fortunes,” he says. “Estate taxes make a huge difference.”
Another area he sees as ripe for reform is the government’s policy on land acquisition. He puts the blame on the 1894 Land Acquisition Act, which began as an eminent domain law allowing the government to seize private land for public purposes. Sinha says the “obsolete” law has abetted a web of kickbacks and payoffs that taken public land from the people and converted it for industrial purposes.”
(Read more:Investing in India? Here's How)
But the most egregious area for abuse, in Sinha’s view, is the rampant illegal mining of natural resources, such as coal, a situation that has enriched the oligarchs virtually unchecked. “There are parts of India that are not in control of the Indian government,” he says. “Companies just put coal into trucks and then ship it to China. Anything connected to natural resources is abused.”
Still, Sinha believes that the winds of change are blowing stronger than ever. “I’m very hopeful,” he says. “We are living in the Internet era, and everything happens very fast.” He points out that more has been done to destabilize India’s oligarchs in the last five years than in the previous 10.