The richest one percent in India now own more than 40 per cent of the country’s total wealth, while the bottom half of the population together share just 3 per cent of wealth. Releasing the India supplement of its annual inequality report on the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Oxfam International said that taxing India’s ten-richest at 5 per cent can fetch entire money to bring children back to school. The report titled ‘Survival of the Richest’ further said that if India’s billionaires are taxed once at 2 per cent on their entire wealth, it would support the requirement of Rs 40,423 crore for the nutrition of malnourished in the country for the next three years. Oxfam said the total number of billionaires in India increased from 102 in 2020 to 166 in 2022.
“A one-off tax on unrealized gains from 2017–2021 on just one billionaire, Gautam Adani, could have raised Rs 1.79 lakh crore, enough to employ more than five million Indian primary school teachers for a year,” it added. “A one-time tax of 5 per cent on the 10 richest billionaires in the country (Rs 1.37 lakh crore) is more than 1.5 times the funds estimated by the Health and Family Welfare Ministry (Rs 86,200 crore) and the Ministry of Ayush (Rs 3,050 crore) for the year 2022-23,” it added.
On gender inequality, the report said that female workers earned only 63 paise for every 1 rupee a male worker earned. For Scheduled Castes and rural workers, the difference is even starker — the former earned 55 per cent of what the advantaged social groups earned, and the latter earned only half of the urban earnings between 2018 and 2019. Oxfam said the report is a mix of qualitative and quantitative information to explore the impact of inequality in India.
Secondary sources like Forbes and Credit Suisse have been used to look at the wealth inequality and billionaire wealth in the country, while government sources like NSS, Union budget documents, parliamentary questions, etc have been used to corroborate arguments made throughout the report.
Since the pandemic begun to Nov 2022, billionaires in India have seen their wealth surge by 121 per cent or Rs 3,608 crore per day in real terms, Oxfam said. On the other hand, approximately 64 per cent of the total Rs 14.83 lakh crore in Goods and Services Tax (GST) came from bottom 50 per cent of the population in 2021-22, with only 3 per cent of GST coming from the top 10 per cent.
The combined wealth of India’s 100 richest has touched USD 660 billion (Rs 54.12 lakh crore) -– an amount that could fund the entire Union Budget for more than 18 months, it added.
Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said, “The country’s marginalised are continuing to suffer in a system which ensures the survival of the richest. The poor are paying disproportionately higher taxes, spending more on essentials items and services when compared to the rich. The time has come to tax the rich and ensure they pay their fair share.”
Citing a nationwide survey by Fight Inequality Alliance India (FIA India) in 2021, Oxfam said it found that more than 80 per cent of people in India support tax on the rich and corporations who earned record profits during the pandemic. “More than 90 per cent participants demanded budget measures to combat inequality such as universal social security, right to health and expansion of budget to prevent gender-based violence,” it added.
“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.
Oxfam India urged the Union finance minister to introduce one-off solidarity wealth taxes and windfall taxes to end crisis profiteering. It also demanded a permanent increase in taxes on the richest 1 per cent and especially raise taxes on capital gains, which are subject to lower tax rates than other forms of income.