The wealth of billionaires in India increased 35 percent during the COVID-induced lockdown, a study prepared by Oxfam revealed on Monday.
The national lockdown was introduced on 25 March 2020 across India, a country with a population of over 1.3 billion people, and lasted until 31 May, following which curbs were gradually relaxed, in phases.
The study, titled "The Inequality Virus” has also found that the COVID-19 outbreak has worsened inequality in the context of wealth, education, and gender.
"The wealth of Indian billionaires increased by 35 percent during the lockdown and by 90 percent since 2009 to $422.9 billion, ranking India sixth in the world after the US, China, Germany, Russia and France," Oxfam said as it released the study on the opening day of the World Economic Forum's Davos Dialogue.
On the other hand, 92 million Indians lost their jobs in the informal sector in April-May, 2020, the report suggested.
As per the Oxfam calculations, India's top 100 billionaires saw their fortunes increase by INR 12.97 trillion (approx. $177.8 billion) — enough money to give every one of the 138 million most impoverished Indians a cheque for $1,290 each.
"It would take an unskilled worker 10,000 years to make what the Chairman of Reliance Industries Limited Mukesh Ambani made in an hour during the pandemic and three years to make what he made in a second," the report explained.
"Rigged economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the frontline of the pandemic - shop assistants, healthcare workers, and market vendors, are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table," Gabriela Bucher, Executive Director of Oxfam International said in her opening remarks.
World leaders including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Secretary-General of United Nations António Guterres, World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and many other prominent personalities are all set to take part in the World Economic Forum's annual gathering, which is being held on 25-29 January.