IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


18th January, 2023 Economy

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  • A new report by Oxfam India has again highlighted the sharp rich-poor divide in the country. The Report is titled as “Survival of the Richest: The India story”.

Highlights of the Report:

  • It has stated that the richest 21 Indian billionaires have more wealth than 700 million Indians.
  • From the time the pandemic began till November last year, billionaires in India have seen their wealth surge by 121%, or Rs 3,608 crore per day in real terms. With Rs 54.12 lakh crore wealth, India’s 100 richest can fund the entire Union Budget for more than 18 months!
  • The report mentioned that approximately 64 percent of the total Rs 14.83 lakh crore in Goods and Services Tax (GST) came from bottom 50 percent of the population in 2021-22, whereas only 3 percent of GST came from the top 10 percent.
  • The report further draws attention to the total number of billionaires in India increasing from 102 in 2020 to 166 billionaires in 2022. The analysis in the report further shows that if India’s billionaires are taxed once at 2% 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 year.

5% Indians Own More Than 60% Of Country's Wealth

  • Just 5% of Indians own more than 60% of the country’s wealth while the bottom 50% of India’s population possess only 3% of wealth. India’s richest man Gautam Adani has seen his wealth soar by 46 percent in 2022.
  • The report shows that a one-off 20% tax on this billionaire’s unrealized gains from 2017–2021 could potentially raise INR 1.8 lakh crores. This is enough to employ more than five million primary school teachers in the country for a year. Oxfam India calls on the Union Finance minister to end this obscene inequality and implement progressive tax measures such as wealth tax in the upcoming Union Budget.
  • From 2012 to 2021, 40 percent of the wealth created in India has gone to just one percent of the population and only a mere 3 percent of the wealth has gone to the bottom 50 percent. 

India's Billionaires Getting Richer

  • While the country suffers from multiple crises like hunger, unemployment, inflation and health calamities, India’s billionaires are doing extremely well for themselves. The poor meanwhile in India are unable to afford even basic necessities to survive. The number of hungry Indians increased to 350 million in 2022 from 190 million in 2018. The widespread hunger is resulting in 65 percent 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. But it has unfortunately lost the plot. India is unfortunately on a fast track to becoming a country only for the rich.
  • While the poor face severe hardships, the wealth of the top 10 richest in India stands at Rs 27.52 lakh crore ($335.7 billion, an increase of around $110 billion which is an 32.8 percent rise from 2021).

Wealth Of 10 Richest Can Finance Ministries

  • The wealth of the top 10 richest can finance the Ministry of Health and Family welfare and Ministry of Ayush for more than 30 years or can finance India’s Union education budget for 26 years or can fund the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for 38 years!
  • Since 2020, the world’s richest 1% have captured almost two-thirds of all new wealth – six times more than the 7 billion people that make up the bottom 90% of humanity. Billionaire fortunes are increasing by $2.7 billion a day, even as inflation outpaces the wages of at least 1.7 billion workers, more than the population of India. Since 2020, for every dollar of new global wealth gained by someone in the bottom 90%, one of the world’s billionaires has gained $1.7 million.

Bias In Loan Recovery

  • India’s banking system demonstrates class bias when it comes to dealing with loan recovery. In Jharkhand, a 22-year-old pregnant woman was crushed under a tractor for not paying Rs 10,000 EMI.
  • Instead of protecting poor and vulnerable from dangerous loan recovery tactics, the RBI withdrew its curbs on third party recovery agents. But in the same year, the loans written off by public banks reached Rs 11.17 lakh crore which are mostly given to corporates. Hardly 13% of this massive amount has been recovered by the banks.

Indian Govt Taxes the Poor & Middle Class More

  • In India, the report highlights how the Union Government continues to tax the poor and middle class more than the rich. Approximately 64 percent of the total Rs 14.83 lakh crore in Goods and Services Tax (GST), came from the bottom 50 percent of the population in 2021-22. As per estimates, 33 percent of GST comes from the middle 40 percent and only 3 percent from the top 10 percent. The bottom 50 percent of the population pays six times more on indirect taxes as a percentage of income compared to the top 10 percent.

India's Rich Benefitting from Tax Exemptions

  • While the poor in India continue to be taxed more, the rich benefit from tax exemptions.
  • In 2019, the Central Government reduced the corporate tax slabs from 30% to 22%, with newly incorporated companies paying a lower 15% rate. The projected revenue foregone by the Union Government in 2020-21 in the form of incentives and tax exemptions to corporates was more than INR 1,03,285.54 crores. This is the equivalent to the allocation towards Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for 1.4 years.
  • Greater taxation creates an enabling environment for governments to have resources to fund universal public services, climate adaptations and innovations. A nationwide survey by Fight Inequality Alliance India (FIA India) in 2021 revealed that more than 80% of people in India support tax on the rich and corporations who earned record profits during the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 90% of participants demanded budget measures to combat inequality such as universal social security, right to health and expansion of budget to prevent gender-based violence.

As per its press release, Oxfam India is calling on Union Finance Minister to:-

  1. Introduce one-off solidarity wealth taxes and windfall taxes to end crisis profiteering.
  2. Permanently increase taxes on the richest 1 percent. The finance minister must especially raise taxes on capital gains, which are subject to lower tax rates than other forms of income. And also implement inheritance, property, and land taxes, as well as net wealth taxes.
  3. Enhance the budgetary allocation of the health sector to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2025, as envisaged in the National Health Policy, to reinvigorate the public healthcare system, reduce OOP expenditure and strengthen health prevention and promotion.
  4. Strengthen Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres (CHCs) and government hospitals with an adequate number of doctors, nurses, paramedics, equipment and other infrastructural requirements as per Indian Public Health Standard (IPHS) norms to make quality health service available within 3 Km radii of peoples’ residence or workplace.
  5. Enhance the budgetary allocation for education to the global benchmark of 6 percent of GDP, as also committed in the National Education Policy. The government must frame a year-wise financial roadmap to achieve the 6 percent mark.
  6. Reduce existing inequality in education by spending more on programs (for example Pre Matric and Post Matric scholarships) meant for improving educational status of students from marginalized sections (SC/ST/Girls).
  7. Ensure workers in formal and informal sector are paid basic minimum wages. The minimum wages should be at par with living wages which is essential for to live a life with dignity.