Inequality In Parliament

Inequality In Parliament

Well, at least the questions on inequality are in Parliament!

Oxfam India has been engaging with parliamentarians to orient and brief them as well as provide inputs on the issues of rising inequality in the country. In the last few sessions of the Parliament—ever since our inequality reports have become bigger and better—questions have been raised on the rising inequality in the country.

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These questions covered a range of important issues such as how much taxes were forgone as corporate waivers; which are the highest earning companies and how much tax they pay; is the government considering the reintroduction of Wealth Tax; and, whether the government has undertaken any evaluation of the current tax system.

Constant engagement with the MPs has led to strengthening of narrative in the Parliament. Several Members of Parliament (MPs) have been speaking up on the issue. Recently, ET Mohammad Basheer, an MP from Kerala, also a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, cited the Oxfam India report during his speech on inequality. Manoj Jha too has raised the issue several times in the Rajya Sabha. Several MPs have urged the government to work towards addressing and reducing inequality. In the ongoing session, seven questions on inequality (education, health, gender and labour) were asked.

Responses from the government on these questions can help in creating a narrative around inequality as well as gathering relevant data that plays a crucial role in sharpening arguments to advocate for reducing inequality.

Though our leaders are talking about inequality, the government has a long way to go before it starts addressing the issue. One key missing point is data (and intent). Sample this, in response to a question on whether the government was maintaining data on income inequality, the government answered in the negative i.e. they  haven’t collected any such data. With regard to Wealth Tax, the government said that it has no plans of reintroducing the wealth tax.

Read Amitabh Behar's views on Wealth Taxes 

In our latest Inequality Report, Survival of the Richest, Oxfam advocates for one-off solidarity wealth taxes and windfall taxes to end crisis profiteering and permanently, increase taxes on the richest 1 percent and implement inheritance, property, and land taxes, as well as net wealth taxes.

Though the government has a long way to go in addressing the issue, Parliament discussions must continue in order to keep the spotlight on inequality and for the sake of democracy.

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