New Delhi, Jan 21
: Indian billionaires saw their fortunes swell by Rs 2,200 crore a day last year, with the top 1 per cent of the country's richest getting richer by 39 per cent as against just 3 per cent increase in wealth for the bottom-half of the population, an Oxfam study said Monday.
Globally, billionaires' fortunes rose by 12 per cent or USD 2.5 billion a day in 2018, whereas the poorest half of the world's population saw their wealth decline by 11 per cent, the international rights group said in its annual study released before the start of the five-day World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos.
Oxfam further said that 13.6 crore Indians, who make up the poorest 10 per cent of the country, continued to remain in debt since 2004.
Asking the political and business leaders who have gathered in Davos for the annual jamboree of the rich and powerful of the world to take urgent steps to tackle the growing rich-poor divide, Oxfam said this increasing inequality is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fuelling public anger across the globe.
Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, one of the key participants at the WEF summit, said it is "morally outrageous" that a few wealthy individuals are amassing a growing share of India's wealth, while the poor are struggling to eat their next meal or pay for their child's medicines.
"If this obscene inequality between the top 1 percent and the rest of India continues then it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country," she added.
Noting that wealth is becoming even more concentrated, Oxfam said 26 people now own the same as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity, down from 44 people last year.
The world's richest man Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, saw his fortune increase to USD 112 billion and just 1 per cent of his fortune is equivalent to the whole health budget for Ethiopia, a country of 115 million people.
"India's top 10 per cent of the population holds 77.4 per cent of the total national wealth. The contrast is even sharper for the top 1 per cent that holds 51.53 per cent of the national wealth.
"The bottom 60 per cent, the majority of the population, own merely 4.8 per cent of the national wealth. Wealth of top 9 billionaires is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population," Oxfam said while noting that high level of wealth disparity subverts democracy.
Between 2018 and 2022, India is estimated to produce 70 new dollar millionaires every day, Oxfam said.
"It (the survey) reveals how governments are exacerbating inequality by underfunding public services, such as healthcare and education, on the one hand, while under taxing corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging on the other," Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.
The survey also shows that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality, he added. -- PTI