Income disparity so huge it’s time for a ‘gross economic mismanagement index’, says Congress

The Congress on Monday hit out at the government over its management of the economy in the wake of a report that the annual income of the poorest 20 per cent of Indian households plunged 53 per cent in 2020-21 from their levels in 2015-16. The party demanded that a “gross economic mismanagement index” should be instituted now.

The Congress said the central government must accept that there is a huge income disparity in the country. It said the Union budget should focus only on tackling the growing income disparity between the rich and the poor.

“The entire country bore the brunt of Covid pandemic but the poor and the middle class are victims of the Modi government’s economic epidemic. The credit for widening the chasm between the rich and the poor goes to the central government,” senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

The Indian Express on Monday reported that a survey conducted by a Mumbai-based think tank, the People’s Research on India’s Consumer Economy (PRICE), showed that the annual income of the poorest 20 per cent of Indian households, constantly rising since 1995, plunged 53 per cent in the pandemic year 2020-21 from their levels in 2015-16. And in the same five-year period, the richest 20 per cent saw their annual household income grow 39 per cent, reflecting the sharp contrast Covid’s economic impact has had on the bottom of the pyramid and the top.

Addressing a press conference, Congress spokesperson Supriya Srinate said the Oxfam report and PRICE’s ICE360 Survey 2021 show that the deep fissures between the rich and the poor in the country were rapidly widening. “Broadly speaking, 60 per cent of India today is earning less than what it was earning five years ago. And survey after another is showing this. So there must be some truth in how the income divide is widening,” she said.

Srinate said that “the 20 per cent for whom the income has halved under the Modi government” had seen their incomes surge by 183 per cent under the UPA between 2004 and 2014. “We had lifted 27 per cent of people out of poverty. And whose income is going up now. The richest 20 per cent are richer by 39 per cent. Their incomes have gone up by 39 per cent,” she said.

The Congress said there was some “deep trouble in the economy” and alleged that the government was focusing only on the rich and the well-heeled and their incomes.

Suggesting the Centre institute a gross economic mismanagement index “so that one gets to know how badly mismanaged the Indian economy is”, she said the government should answer why unemployment was rising, who the price rise was affecting the most and why corporate taxes were being cut even as the GST had been increased.

And the forthcoming budget, she said, “must only focus on bridging the divide between the rich and the poor…increasing money in the hands of the poor, pay attention to how urban poverty is going up manifold…”

The Congress spokesperson also said rural poverty had also worsened “but to a lesser degree”, because the UPA’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act had protected the rural economy.

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