The fortunes of Indian billionaires grew by an astronomical 35 per cent per day last year, or by Rs 2,200 crore daily, while the poorest 10 per cent of the country have continued to remain in debt since 2004, according to an Oxfam report released today.
The report "Public Good or Private Wealth", released ahead of the gathering of political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, also said that while billionaire fortunes globally increased by 12 per cent last year at $2.5 billion a day, 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth decline by 11 per cent.
Describing the Indian situation as "morally outrageous", Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said: "It is morally outrageous that a few wealthy individuals are amassing a growing share of India's wealt' 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 per cent and the rest of India continues then it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country," he said.
According to Oxfam, the richest 10 per cent of India's 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," the global rights group said.
The report reveals that India added 18 new billionaires last year raising the total number of billionaires to 119, and their wealth crossed the $400 billion mark for the first time. It rose from $325.5 billion in 2017 to $440.1 billion in 2018.
"This is the single largest annual increase since the 2008 global financial crisis," Oxfam said.
"India's combined revenue and capital expenditure of the centre and state for medical and public health, sanitation and water supply is Rs 2,08,166 crore, less than the wealth of India's richest billionaire Mukesh Ambani at Rs 2,80,700 crore," it added.
Oxfam said increasing inequality across the globe is undermining the fight against poverty, damaging economies and fuelling public anger.
"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 in a statement.
The report said the tax rates for wealthy individuals and corporations globally have been cut dramatically. It found that while the top rate of personal income tax in rich countries fell from 62 per cent in 1970 to just 38 percent in 2013, the average rate in poor countries is just 28 percent.
The survey also found that women and girls are hardest hit by rising economic inequality.
"Cutting taxes on wealth predominantly benefits men who own 50 per cent more wealth than women globally, and control over 86 per cent of corporations. Conversely, when public services are neglected poor women and girls suffer most," it said.
"Economic inequality plagued by caste, class, gender and religion need to be tackled on a war-footing. Government must now deliver real change by ensuring that the super-rich and corporations pay their fair share of tax and invest this money to strengthen public healthcare and education," Mr Behar said.