The wealth of Indian billionaires rose by Rs 2,200 crore a day last year, with the top 1% of the country’s richest getting richer by 39% as against a 3% increase in wealth for the bottom-half of the population, according to a study released by Oxfam on Monday.
The document, released before the start of the five-day World Economic Forum in Switzerland’s Davos, said 13.6 crore Indians, who make up the poorest 10% of the country, have remained in debt since 2004.
Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said it is “morally outrageous” that a few wealthy individuals are collecting a growing share of India’s wealth, while the poor are struggling to find their next meal or pay for medicines, PTI reported.
“If this obscene inequality between the top 1% and the rest of India continues, it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country,” said Byanyima.
The study showed that India’s top 10% holds 77.4% of the total national wealth, while the top 1% holds 51.53% of the wealth. A massive chunk of the population – the bottom 60% – holds only 4.8% of the national wealth. “The wealth of the top nine billionaires is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50% of the population,” it said.
India now has a total of 119 billionaires, having added 18 new ones last year. Their total wealth crossed the $400 billion, around Rs 28 lakh crore, mark for the first time. The country is also expected to produce 70 new dollar millionaires every day between 2018 and 2022, the study added.
The study said the total revenue and expenditure of the Centre and states for medical, public health, sanitation and water supply is Rs 2,08,166 crore, less than the Rs 2.8 lakh crore wealth of Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest individual.
The global figures
Oxfam said that the world’s 26 richest people own the same wealth as the poorest half of the population, and the combined fortunes of billionaires rose by $2.5 billion, around Rs 1.78 lakh crore, each day in 2018. Meanwhile, the wealth of 3.8 billion people at the bottom of the scale declined by 11% last year.
Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, saw his wealth increase to $112 billion, around Rs 8 lakh crore, last year. According to the study, just 1% of his wealth was the equivalent of Ethiopia’s total health budget.
Oxfam said that governments were only helping increase inequality by underfunding public services like healthcare and education while undertaxing the rich. “The super-rich and corporations are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades,” it said. “The human costs – children without teachers, clinics without medicines – are huge.”