A reflection of Modi’s crony capitalism?


Economic inequality – the unequal distribution of income and opportunity between different groups in society is a reality.


According to the annual inequality report released today by the non-profit organization Oxfam India, the richest 1% of India’s population own more than 40.5% of the country’s total wealth. However, the bottom 50% of the population accounted for only about 3% of it.


According to the report, titled ‘Survival of the Richest: The India Supplement’, the total number of billionaires in India climbed from 102 in 2020 to 142 in 2021 and 166 in 2022. Meanwhile, in stark contrast, 22.89 crore people live in poverty in India, the highest in the world and added that the poor in India “are unable to afford even basic necessities to survive.”


However, just as the opposition parties have accused the Modi government of favoring India’s “billionaire” friends, Oxfam reports that “India’s poor and middle class were taxed more than the rich.”


“Approximately 64% of the total goods and services tax (GST) in the country came from the bottom 50% of the population, while only 4% came from the top 10%,” the report said.


In 2022, the wealth of India’s richest man Gautam Adani increased by 46%, while the combined wealth of India’s 100 richest had touched $660bn.


“Since the pandemic began in Nov 2022, billionaires in India have seen their wealth surge by 121 per cent or Rs 3,608 crore per day in real terms,” Oxfam said.


It may be noted here that Nagaland collected 28% and 11% more GST revenues in August and November 2022 respectively than in the same months in 2021, and that the cost of goods has risen significantly during the last two years.


The opposition parties have slammed the Centre for implementing GST on packaged food goods such as milk and curd, calling it Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “masterstroke” in making India miserable.


In 2022, a 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) was imposed on pre-packaged and labeled food commodities weighing less than 25 kg, such as grains, lentils, and flour.


“Earlier, petrol-diesel, cooking gas was made expensive. From today, flour, cereals and curd have also become expensive. To benefit the trillionaire friends of Modi ji, electricity will be made expensive in the coming time,” Congress general secretary had tweeted before.


CPI (M) Sitaram Yechury had asked the Centre to “stop this relentless criminal assault on peoples’ livelihoods.”


“India is unfortunately on a fast track to becoming a country only for the rich,” Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar told BBC. “The country’s marginalized – Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, women and informal sector workers are continuing to suffer in a system which ensures the survival of the richest,” he continued.


According to the report, the rich, currently, benefited from reduced corporate taxes, tax exemptions and other incentives. To correct this disparity, the charity has asked the finance minister to implement progressive tax measures such as wealth tax in the upcoming budget.


“A 2% tax on the entire wealth of India’s billionaires would support the nutrition of the country’s malnourished population for the next three years,” the report said.
“A 1% wealth tax could fund the National Health Mission, India’s largest healthcare scheme for more than 1.5 years,” it added.


“Taxing the top 100 Indian billionaires at 2.5% or taxing the top 10 Indian billionaires at 5% would nearly cover the entire amount required to bring an estimated 150 million children back into school,” Oxfam said.


Gabriela Bucher, the 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 was necessary for “reducing inequality and resuscitating democracy,” she added.


However, only time will tell whether the central government will accept the report or dismiss it, as it did in 2021 when the Centre revoked the institution’s authorization to collect foreign funding.


Mokokchung Times

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