Throwing light on the widening financial gulf within Indian society since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, an Oxfam report has found that while the number of Indian billionaires grew from 102 to 142 in 2021, the share of the bottom 50 percent of the population in the national wealth declined to a mere 6 percent.
The report, titled "Inequality Kills: The Davos India Supplement' by Oxfam India," was released on Monday, 17 January.
It posits that Indians billionaires have seen their combined fortunes more than double during the pandemic, with the richest 98 Indian billionaires having the same wealth ($657 billion) as the poorest 555 million people (bottom 40 percent).
"To put things into perspective, Mukesh Ambani earns approximately $7.7 billion per month and could employ close to 401.1 million unskilled workers at this minimum wage per month," the Oxfam report states.
Women Accounted for 28 Percent of All Job Losses During the Pandemic: Oxfam
Women accounted for 28 percent of all job losses and lost two-thirds of their income during the pandemic, as per Oxfam findings.
"This had a direct impact on their access to sanitary products. If the richest percent’s income were to be taxed at one percent, 300 thousand women can have access to free sanitary products for the entire year," the report mentioned.
India’s 2021 budget allocation for the Ministry of Women and Child Development is less than half of the total accumulated wealth of the bottom ten of India’s billionaire list, as per the report. A 2 percent tax on individuals with an income of over 10 crore could increase the ministry’s budget by a whopping 121 percent.
Healthcare, Education Budgets Saw Decline
The Oxfam exposition indicates that during India's worst year of COVID-19, the country’s healthcare budget saw a 10 percent decline from RE (revised estimates) of 2020-21.
At the same time, it found that 4 percent wealth tax on 98 richest families in India would finance the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for more than 2 years.
There was a 6 percent cut in allocation for education, the Oxfam report says, while the budgetary allocation for social security schemes declined from 1.5 percent of the total Union budget to 0.6 percent.
"Wealth of 10 richest billionaires in India would be enough to fund for school and higher education of Indian children for more than 25 years. 1 percent of tax on wealth of the 98 billionaires in India can fund the total annual expenditure of the department of school education and literacy under Ministry of Education," as per the report.