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India’s top 100 billionaires earned Rs 13 lakh crore despite Covid hit — Oxfam report

Oxfam report says wealth of India’s top 100 billionaires increased enough during Covid that, if divided equally, it could translate to over Rs 94,000 each for 138 million of India’s poorest.

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New Delhi: The top 100 billionaires in India earned Rs 12.98 lakh crore in the 10 months starting March 2020, when the Covid-19 lockdown first kicked in, while around 92 million people lost their jobs in the informal sector in the first two months, international NGO network Oxfam has said in a report.  

Titled “The Inequality Virus”, the report seeks to assess the impact of Covid-19 on inequality around the world. It was released Monday, the opening day of the World Economic Forum’s ‘Davos Dialogues’.  

The report also comprises a survey of 295 economists from 79 countries, which reveals that 87 per cent of the respondents expect an “increase” or a “major increase” in income inequality in their country as a result of the pandemic, which wreaked havoc on the economies of nations worldwide.

To emphasise its point, the report says the wealth of the 100 billionaires has increased enough that, if divided equally, it could translate to over Rs 94,000 each for 138 million of India’s poorest.

The increase in the wealth of the top 11 Indian billionaires during the pandemic, it says, could even sustain the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme for 10 years, or the health ministry for the same period. 

At the same time, 170,000 people lost their jobs every hour in April 2020.

The billionaires taken into account for the report include Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, Shiv Nadar, Cyrus Poonawalla, Uday Kotak, Azim Premji, Sunil Mittal, Radhakrishan Damani, Kumar Mangalam Birla, and Laxmi Mittal, whose interests span sectors like coal, oil, telecom, pharmaceuticals, education, and retail. 

“It would take an unskilled worker 10,000 years to make what the Chairman of Reliance Industries Limited Mukesh Ambani made in an hour during the pandemic and three years to make what he made in a second”, the report states. 

The sum Ambani earned during the pandemic, it adds, could keep the 400 million informal workers above the poverty line for at least five months.

“The report shows how the rigged economic system is enabling a super-rich elite to amass wealth in the middle of the worst recession and the biggest economic crisis in the history of independent India, while millions of people are struggling to make ends meet. It reveals how the pandemic is deepening long-standing economic, caste, ethnic, and gender divides,” Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.


Also Read: Why we may be exactly wrong about technology and inequality


Rich got richer 

According to the report, the wealth of Indian billionaires increased by 35 per cent between March and December 2020 to $422.9 billion (over Rs 30 lakh crore). This marks a 90 per cent increase since 2009, it states.  

This was the sixth highest growth rate by country, with the top five seen in the US, China, Germany, Russia and France. 

The wealth of billionaires increased across the globe during the pandemic. Between 18 March and 31 December 2020,  the wealth of the top 1,000 billionaires of the world increased by $3.9 trillion (Rs 284 lakh crore) to $11.95 trillion (Rs 872 lakh crore) — which is equivalent to what the G20 governments have spent in response to the pandemic, the report states. 

Within nine months, the report adds, the top 1,000 billionaires recovered all the wealth they had lost during the Covid-19-induced economic setback. “In contrast, after the financial crisis in 2008, it took five years for billionaire wealth to return to its pre-crisis high”, the report said. 

The world’s 10 richest billionaires have collectively seen an increase in their wealth by  $540 billion (Rs 39 lakh crore) from March to December 2020. 

In India, the report states, 122 million people lost their jobs during the first two months of the Covid-19 lockdown (March and April 2020), of which 75 per cent or 92 million jobs were lost in the informal sector. Over 300 informal workers died during the mass exodus triggered by the sudden lockdown, it adds. 

The report also points to the fact that the online education system is not accessible to many students — especially those from rural areas. 

Only 4 per cent of rural households have a computer and less than 15 per cent had an internet connection, it adds. 

According to the report, only 6 per cent of the poorest 20 per cent have access to non-shared sources of improved sanitation, compared to 93.4 per cent of the top 20 per cent.


Also Read: India could afford to overlook economic inequality until now. Covid has changed that


 

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8 COMMENTS

  1. This shit is always there. Crying on rich has become the fun in today’s world instead of trying to help poor become better. If those rich people are not there, it would have been like Manik Sarkar’s Tripura where everyone is not only poor and but also equal. Might be this is the equality that this oxfam wants to see across the globe.

  2. It is of interest to see the wealth increase study made by Oxfam on Indian billionaires. Why not a similar study and comparison of wealth earned by Bezos, Bill Gatrs, Mark Zuckerberg and thousands of other American billionaires. The numbers of yeats it might take a newyork taxi driver to earn and hoatd the kind of money any of these billionaires of America. Might not be much different compared to whst an Indian worker mau have to work for indeed. Ofcource ot is fashionable to always compare indian work force and their employers bcz it is the best way to discuss an event over coffee without feeling guilty and being of
    no useful inputs into any established theory by their own ilk

  3. Usual leftist bias. Showing wealth making as a crime. Surely they didn’t steal from anyone? Growth of inequality is a matter of concern. But, envying the successful is no way to do it. It will take India back to the simplistic socialism of Indira Gandhi period – damning the rich to gain the sympathy and votes of the poor. Her Garibi Hatao didnot remove even one Indian’s poverty.

  4. It is amusing to read the sub-title of this report: “..if divided equally, it could translate to over Rs 94,000 each for 138 million of India’s poorest. ” Does this not imply that if that surplus had been taken away from those millionaires or billionaires and distributed among the poor, the problem of poverty, hunger, unemployment, housing or disease would have gone away?
    If true, this is a typical outworn, outmoded “socialist” thought that was experimented in the aftermath of the Russian Bolshevik revolution and the Maoist Chinese revolution. They created their own “communist” empire and all of us know where did they eventually land? The Soviets lost their satellite states and disintegrated; the Chinese abandoned the path of communism and turned out to be a hyper-capitalistic society now in a position to challenge the only superpower: the United States.
    In India, the Communists — in all their forms — advocated the Soviet and the Chinese model and have steadily lost the support of public opinion and seats in the state and the federal legislatures. In some pockets of wretchedly undeveloped and neglected remote areas, the Maoists have kept themselves alive by exploiting the poverty of people’s knowledge and resources.
    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not anti-Marxist, he was great as a philosopher, an admirer of the era the capitalists ushered in. My point is by demonizing the rich who — apart from being profit/surplus makers — are the innovators and drivers of the economy, the society is not going to be well-served.
    Yes, their surplus capital has to be put to a better use. It would be a hard job for the government, but if the capitalists were made to invest their surplus in their own country and if they were prevented from siphoning off the capital overseas, it would have benefited the people of India who needed help. It’s the corrupt use/influence of their surplus capital that has to be stopped.
    The billionaires this article is talking about must be trained to be a philanthropist and a constant re-investor — persuasively, if possible, forcibly, if necessary!

  5. A very selective study to show the billionaires taken into account for the report include Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Adani, Shiv Nadar, Cyrus Poonawalla, Uday Kotak, Azim Premji, Sunil Mittal, Radhakrishan Damani, Kumar Mangalam Birla, and Laxmi Mittal, whose interests span sectors like coal, oil, telecom, pharmaceuticals, education, and retail.
    All these have done work to earn the money and provided 1000s of jobs and opportunities in ancillary industry. .
    Has OXFAM got any data on the wealth and increase in the wealth of the First Families who earned and grew without doing a days work, enriching themselves on cuts / commissions and manipulation.

  6. This hyperbole against rich people is only until you are a so called champion of the poor. After you become rich, all thoughts are foregone.
    Also, Mukesh Ambani provides employment for 1.9 lakh people. So, calm down.

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