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Covid-19 widened India’s rich-poor divide: Report

While India was in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic and faced a sharp economic downturn for most of 2021, the gap between rich and poor widened.

The latest Oxfam report titled Inequality Kills, published ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda, highlights some of these startling economic disparities in India and the wider world.

The report says that while India’s richest families saw their assets rise to record levels in 2021, nearly 84% of Indian households saw an income decline as they struggled with the loss of businesses and jobs and rising healthcare costs.

More than 250,000 people died when the second wave of Covid-19 wreaked havoc across the country between March and June last year, although unofficial estimates put the toll three to four times higher.

Crematoriums and funeral grounds faced an unprecedented rush and hospitals were overwhelmed with patients seeking beds and oxygen cylinders. But the report stated that the country’s healthcare budget saw a 10% decline from revised estimates of 2020-21.

The report notes that during 2021 India had 40 new billionaires, upping the number of the super-rich to 142 from 102. It described India as a very unequal society with the top 10% richest holding 57% of the wealth, while the share of the bottom half was just 13%.

India now has the third-highest number of billionaires in the world, behind China and the United States. It now has more billionaires than France, Sweden and Switzerland combined.

“Gautam Adani, ranked 24th globally and second in India, witnessed his net worth multiply by eight times in a span of one year; from $8.9 billion in 2020 to $50.5 billion in 2021. According to the real-time data by Forbes, as of 24 November 2021, Adani’s net worth stands at $82.2 billion,” the report said.

India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani’s net worth doubled in 2021 to $85.5 billion from $36.8 billion in 2020, the report added.

On the other hand, India was in line with sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for the highest increase in poverty during the pandemic. In 2020, the number of poor in the South Asian nation doubled to 134 million, more than a Pew research had estimated, Oxfam said.

The report points out that the lowering of corporate taxes to 22% from 30% to attract investment last year resulted in a loss of 1.5 trillion rupees to the national exchequer, which contributed to the increase in India’s fiscal deficit.

“The poor, marginalized and the middle class paid high taxes despite going through the raging pandemic, while the rich made more money without paying their fair share,” it added.

Indian stock markets remained upbeat through most of the year and the Bombay Stock Exchange benchmark Sensex moved up by about 10,000 points in a single year. This is the highest year-on-year increase in absolute terms historically.

There were 121 initial share sales with the listing companies garnering 1.18 trillion rupees in 2021. This amount is the highest ever in India’s stock market history, with the previous best being 671 billion rupees in 2017.

[Source: By KS Kumar,Asia Times, Bankog, 19Jan22]

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small logoThis document has been published on 28Jan22 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.