In the initial months of the pandemic, the global billionaires experienced massive reductions in their wealth as the stock market collapsed in February and March.
But this hit was short-lived. Within few months, the billionaires across the global countries, including India, had recovered all the wealth they had lost. While millions slipped into poverty.
“The coronavirus pandemic has further worsened the inequality between the rich and the poor and pushed crores into unemployment, underemployment, or extreme poverty in India,” said non-profit group Oxfam in its report titled The Inequality Virus.
As per the report, the wealth of India’s billionaires raised by around 35% during the pandemic, while 84% of households experienced varying levels of income loss, and 1.7 lakh people lost employment every hour in April 2020 alone.
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The report also informed that the combined increased wealth of the country’s top 100 billionaires was enough to provide INR 94,045 cheque to each of the 138 million poorest people.
“The rising inequality in the country is poignant. It would take an unskilled worker 10,000 years to make what Mukesh Ambani made in an hour during the pandemic and three years to make what Ambani made in a second,” said the report.
The report also highlighted that if India’s top 11 billionaires were “taxed at just 1% on the increased wealth during the pandemic”, it is sufficient to increase allocation to the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) scheme by 140 times.
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Moreover, according to Oxfam, the increased wealth of the world’s top 10 billionaires is more than enough to prevent anyone from falling into poverty and pay for a COVID-19 vaccine for everyone.
“Worldwide, billionaires’ wealth increased by a staggering USD 3.9 trillion between March 18 and December 31, 2020. At the same time, it is estimated that the total number of people living in poverty could have increased by between 200 million and 500 million,” reported Oxfam.
The Oxfam suggested the Indian Government to immediately revise minimum wages and increase them at regular intervals, among others, to address the inequality.
It also recommended the government to impose a 2% surcharge on those earning over INR 50 lakh and a temporary tax on businesses making huge profits amid the pandemic.
“It is time for the Government of India to take specific and concrete actions to build a better future. Citizens’ voices seek a more equal and just future,” said the report.