The stark gulf between the billionaires and the poor

The latest report by Oxfam International is deeply worrying and should be an eye-opener for the government of India. As per the report, the divide between rich and the poor is growing at an alarming rate in the country. The dividing line between two Indias – the haves and the have-nots – has become too sharp and stark to ignore. The coronavirus pandemic has further widened the gulf between the rich and the poor in ways that the country never experienced in the past. The richest 1 percent in the country now own more than 40 percent of its total wealth, while the bottom half of the populace shares only 3 percent. The rich have become richer and the poor poorer during the pandemic.

From the outbreak of the pandemic to November 2022, billionaires in India have seen their moolah go up 121 percent. While the country suffers from multiple crises like hunger, unemployment, inflation, and health calamities, the billionaires are doing extremely well for themselves. The poor, meanwhile, are unable to afford even basic necessities to survive. The Oxfam report, which comes a fortnight before the presentation of the union budget for the 2023-24 financial year, has sought a systemic and wide-ranging increase in taxation of the super-rich to “claw back crisis gains driven by public money and profiteering.” Can the government of India afford to ignore this report? It might resort to the usual tactics to divert attention by using religious politics and by targeting Oxfam International, but reality cannot be ignored anymore. Some action is needed to reduce this growing gap.