The wealth of 5% richest Indians accounted for more than 60% of the country’s wealth in the past two years, according to a report by Oxfam, an anti-poverty non-governmental organisation.
Titled 'Survival of the Richest: The India story,' the report was released on the first day of the World Economic Forum. As per the report, between April 2020 and November 2022, the wealth of billionaires in India surged by 121% or ₹3,608 crore per day. The report says that in 2021-2022, the top 10% of Indians paid only 3% in the form of goods and services tax (GST). This is in contrast to the payment of 64% of GST worth ₹14.83 lakh crore—which was the highest—by 50% of the country’s, and 33% of GST by the middle 44% population.
The development comes at a time when the country’s unemployment rate surged to a 12-month high at 8.3% in December last year, according to the data from the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE).
According to the report, the total number of billionaires in India surged from 102 in 2020 to 166 billionaires in 2022. The top two industries crowded the most by Indian billionaires are healthcare and manufacturing, as per the report. While the healthcare industry has 32 billionaires, the manufacturing industry has 31 billionaires. In 2020, the healthcare and pharma industry added seven new billionaires with their combined wealth reaching ₹4.3 lakh crore by early 2021.
As per the report, the Adani group chairman, Gautam Adani's wealth alone increased eight times during the pandemic and then nearly doubled to ₹10.96 lakh crore in October 2022, making him the richest Indian. Cyrus Poonawala, chairman and managing director of Cyrus Poonawala group witnessed 91 per cent rise in his wealth from 2021.
Amitabh Behar, the chief executive officer of Oxfam India says, "The number of hungry Indians increased to 350 million in 2022 from 190 million in 2018. The widespread hunger is resulting in 65% of the deaths among children under the age of five in 2022, according to the Union Government’s submission to the Supreme Court. After witnessing mass suffering and death during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was critical that the Government of India took aggressive measures to address injustice and poverty."
According to the report, the wealth of the top 10 richest in India stood at ₹27.52 lakh crore in 2022, which is a 32.8% rise from 2021. The report says that the combined wealth of India’s 100 richest have touched ₹54.12 lakh crore. In contrast to this, the report says that the country still has the highest number of poor at 22.9 crore.
Emphasising corporate taxation, the report says that a reduction in the corporate tax slab from 30% to 22% in 2019, has resulted in a total loss of ₹1.84 lakh crore in the last two years. Amidst a growing wealth inequality, the corporate organisations reported a 70% increase in their profits in 2021-22 as compared to the previous year, while 84% of Indian households saw a decline in their income, it adds.
Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International says, "It's time we demolish the convenient myth that tax cuts for the richest result in their wealth somehow 'trickling down' to everyone else. Taxing the super-rich is the strategic precondition to reducing inequality and resuscitating democracy. We need to do this for innovation. For stronger public services. For happier and healthier societies."
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