The Congress hit out at the BJP-led Centre on Monday, alleging that its "pro-rich" policies favoured a select group of big industrialists during the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, while the earnings of 84 per cent people in the country witnessed a dip.
The opposition party also demanded that the Centre provide tax reliefs to people on the lines of concessions granted to corporations, reduce the prices of petrol and diesel by Rs 25 per litre and exempt essential items from the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "creating wealth for his friends" and weakening the public with taxes and unemployment.
"The prime minister is creating wealth for his friends and is weakening the public with taxes and unemployment. Will these statistics also be discussed in the WEF? It must be!" he alleged in a tweet in Hindi while referring to the Oxfam report.
Gandhi also put out a chart showing the disparity, with the combined wealth of the 98 richest billionaires being equal to that of 55 crore people in the country.
The Congress also put out numbers on Twitter showing that while the wealth of industrialists such as Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani increased during the times of Covid, that of 84 per cent common people reduced.
The opposition party put out a graph on Twitter, saying Adani's wealth increased from USD 8.9 billion in 2020 to USD 82.2 billion in 2021 and that of Ambani's saw a rise from USD 36.8 billion in 2020 to USD 85.5 billion in 2021.
Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh told reporters that according to the Oxfam Report, the combined wealth of the 98 richest Indians is equal to that of the 55.2 crore people at the bottom of the barrel.
"Modinomics in short -- unemployment rate at seven per cent, wholesale inflation at 13.56 per cent, USD to INR at 74 plus, a decline in the income of 84 per cent households in 2021 and the states are responsible for the management of the pandemic," he said.
Citing the Oxfam report, Vallabh said the earnings of 84 per cent households in the country witnessed a decline in 2021, but the number of Indian billionaires grew from 102 to 142 (a growth of 39 per cent).
"The 98 richest Indians own the same amount of wealth as the bottom 55.2 crore Indians. During the first two waves of the pandemic (March 2020 to November 2021), the wealth of Indian billionaires increased from Rs 23.14 lakh crore (USD 313 billion) to Rs 53.16 lakh crore (USD 719 billion). This growth in the wealth of billionaires (Rs 30.02 lakh crore) is 86 per cent of the Union Budget for financial year 2021-22 (Rs 34.83 lakh crore)," he claimed.
Vallabh also alleged that the pro-rich policies include a continuous increase in indirect taxes (GST) as a share of the Centre, a constant hike in the additional tax imposed on fuel -- it rose by 33 per cent in the first six months of 2020-21 compared to the last year, 79 per cent higher than the pre-Covid levels.
The lowering of corporate taxes from 30 per cent to 22 per cent resulted in a loss of Rs 1.5 lakh crore, contributing to India's fiscal deficit, he said, adding that these trends show that the poor, marginalised and the middle class paid high taxes despite going through the raging pandemic, while the rich made more money.
Vallabh alleged that abolishing the wealth tax "for the super rich" was responsible for the divide and as a result, more than 4.6 crore Indians were estimated to have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020, nearly half of the global new poor, according to the United Nations.
While the national minimum wage has remained at Rs 178 a day since 2020, Adani witnessed his net worth multiply by eight times in a year -- from USD 8.9 billion (Rs 65,860 crore) in 2020 to USD 50.5 billion (Rs 3.73 lakh crore) in 2021 -- he alleged.
According to the real-time data of Forbes, as of November 24, 2021, Adani's net worth was USD 82.2 billion (Rs 6.08 lakh crore), the Congress leader said, adding that Mukesh Ambani's net worth doubled to USD 85.5 billion (Rs 6.32 lakh crore) in 2021 from USD 36.8 billion (Rs 2.72 lakh crore) in 2020.
When all this was happening, the country's healthcare budget saw a 10-per cent dip from the revised estimates of 2020-21, there was a six-per cent cut in the allocation for education and the budgetary allocation for social security schemes declined from 1.5 per cent of the Union Budget to 0.6 per cent, he said.
The report further says that despite the country's federal structure, the structure of revenue kept the reins of resources in the Centre's hands. Yet, the pandemic management was left to the states, which were not equipped to handle it.
The Congress sought to know why did the wealth of these industrialists grew exponentially during the pandemic and the earnings of 84 per cent households in the country declined.
Vallabh asked when corporate taxes were reduced from 30 per cent to 22 per cent, why such reliefs were not available for the middle-income and lower-income groups?
"The government should immediately cut the petrol and diesel prices by Rs 25 per litre to reduce this ever-increasing income divide. Essential items should either be exempted from paying the GST or the tax rates should be rationalised as the high rates on these items are regressive," he said.
Vallabh also said the Congress will take up these issues of public interest from the streets to Parliament and continue to raise these during the upcoming Assembly polls as well as during future elections.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)