Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, continue to suffer in the system: Oxfam

By Muslim Mirror Desk

Just five percent of Indians own more than 60 percent of the country’s wealth while the bottom 50 percent of India’s population possess only three percent of the wealth, according to Oxfam India’s latest report “Survival of the Richest: The India story”.

According to the report, the wealth of India’s billionaires increased by 121%, or 3,608 crores per day, between April 2020 and November 2022.

The report states that in 2021–2022, the top 10% of Indian citizens paid only 3% in goods and services tax. (GST). This is in contrast to the 50% of the population of the country paying 64% of the 14.83 lakh crore worth of GST, and the middle 44% paying 33%.

According to data from the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, the development occurs at a time when the nation’s unemployment rate hit a 12-month high of 8.3% in December of last year (CMIE).

According to the report, the poor face severe hardships, the wealth of the top 10 richest in India stands at INR 27.52 lakh crore ($335.7 billion an increase of around $110 billion which is a 32.8 percent rise from 2021). 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.

“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,” the report read.

Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India said, “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 per cent 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.”

“The country’s marginalised – Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Women and informal sector workers 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. We urge the finance minister to implement progressive tax measures such as wealth tax and inheritance tax which have been historically proven to be effective in tackling inequality.”, said Behar.

According to the report, greater taxation creates an enabling environment for governments to have resources to fund universal public services, climate adaptations and innovations.

The report cited a nationwide survey by Fight Inequality Alliance India (FIA India) in 2021 which 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 and more than 90% participants demanded budget measures to combat inequality such as universal social security, right to health and expansion of budget to prevent gender-based violence.

Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International said, ““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. We need to do this for innovation. For stronger public services. For happier and healthier societies”

In order to stop crisis profiteering, Oxfam India urged the Union finance minister to enact windfall taxes and one-time solidarity wealth taxes. Additionally, it called for a permanent increase in taxes on the richest 1%, with a focus on capital gains taxes, which are currently taxed at a lower rate than other types of income.

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