NEW DELHI: The rich-poor divide has widened by many folds in India, with the country’s top 10 per cent of the population holding 77.4 per cent of the nation’s wealth, while 13.6 crore Indians continue to remain in debt since 2004, a report by Oxfam has shown.
“India’s top 10 per cent of the population holds 77.4 per cent of the total national wealth. The contrast is even sharper for the top 1 per cent that holds 51.53 per cent of the national wealth,” said Oxfam’s annual study report, which was released before the start of the five-day World Economic Forum at Davos Oxfam.
The report added that the bottom 60 per cent — the majority of the population — own merely 4.8 per cent of the national wealth.
“Wealth of top nine billionaires is equivalent to wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population,” Oxfam said.In last one year, while the bottom half saw their wealth grow by a paltry 3 per cent, billionaires saw their fortunes swell by Rs 2,200 crore a day, and top 1 per cent of the country’s richest got richer by 39 per cent. India added 18 new billionaires last year, taking the total number of billionaires to 119, their wealth crossing Rs 28 lakh crore.
Between 2018 and 2022, India is estimated to produce 70 new dollar millionaires every day.
Oxfam International executive director Winnie Byanyima said it is “morally outrageous” that a few wealthy individuals are amassing a growing share of India’s wealth, while the poor are struggling to eat their next meal or pay for their child’s medicines.
“If this obscene inequality between the top 1 per cent and the rest of India continues, it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country,” Byanyima added.“It reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by under-funding public services such as healthcare and education on the one hand, while under-taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging on the other,” Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.If India’s richest 1 per cent pay just 0.5 per cent extra tax on their wealth, it can increase the government spending on health by 50 per cent, the report said.
The Oxfam report said inequality has a “female face” in India, where women are less likely to have paid work. There are only nine women in the country’s 119-member billionaires club, it said. The report also highlighted that while unpaid work done by women across the globe amounts to a staggering $10 trillion a year, in India, the unpaid work done by women looking after their homes and children is worth 3.1 per cent of the country’s GDP.