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Incomes 'vanished' during Covid, 94.3% Indians seek universal healthcare, pension

Counterview Desk 

Fight Inequality Alliance (FIA) India, of which Oxford India is a member, has said that while every 8 out of 10 Indians want a tax on the rich and companies profited during a pandemic, more than 90% of people demand social security, right to health, and prevention of gender-based violence from the Union budget.
Based on a survey  it carried out, the FIA report says, “The Union Budget 2022-23 can potentially provide several measures to fight inequality. The stark inequalities exacerbated by Covid-19 have started a global wave of protests to make the rich pay their fair share. The Government of India can listen to the people and make provisions for social security, health, and well-being through the budget."

A note:

More than 80% of Indians support a tax on the rich and corporations who earned record profits during the pandemic, a nationwide survey by Fight Inequality Alliance India (FIA India) has revealed. The survey took inputs of total of 3231 Indians from 24 states ahead of the Union Budget 2022-23 on the expectations of common people from the government. More than 90% of participants demanded budget measures to combat inequality such as universal social security, right to health, and expansion of budget to prevent gender-based violence revealed the survey by FIA, an alliance of NGOs, civil society, environmental groups, trade unions and social movements to fight the growing crisis of inequality.
A global study by Fight Inequality Alliance showed that the wealth of Indian billionaires has more than doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic while 46 million people are estimated to have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020 (nearly half of the new global poor). This means the richest 98 billionaires own the same wealth as the bottom 40% of Indian society.
The economic and social disruptions caused by Covid-19 have further exacerbated inequalities in India. The Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE) estimates that over 10 million jobs vanished in the second wave and 97% of households saw their incomes drop. The impact, while devastating overall, has been grossly unequal. While the wealth of Indian billionaires has more than doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic 46 million people are estimated to have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020, according to Oxfam India report. The stark inequality in India is disproportionately affecting marginalised communities such as Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims and women.
Anjela Taneja, lead, FIA, said, “The Union Budget 2022-23 can potentially provide several measures to fight inequality. The stark inequalities exacerbated by Covid-19 have started a global wave of protests to make the rich pay their fair share. The Government of India can listen to the people and make provisions for social security, health, and well-being through the budget.”
The survey by FIA indicates the need for progressive policy and budget allocations to provide relief to Indians who have lost lives and jobs.
Here are some findings and suggestions for the Union Budget in India from FIA pre-budget survey:

Where should the government allocate additional funds in the upcoming budget?

  • 94.3 percent want the government to provide universal minimum social security including health and maternity benefits, accident insurance, life insurance, and pension to all unorganized workers. In the case of Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe, the percentage increases to 97.9 percent and 97 percent respectively
  • 94.1 percent overall, 100 percent women and 96 percent STs want an Increase the budget for National Health Mission
  • 96.6 percent of youth in the age group of 18-24 from the SC community and 89.1 percent of the overall respondents want an increased allocation for scholarships for Dalit, Adivasis, minorities, and women for their education and skill development. 98 percent STs demanded for the same.
  • 91.4 percent wants the government to strengthen support services for the prevention of gender-based violence
  • 90.8 percent demand increase in allocation for the opening of creches and other care facilities, percentage increases to 95.1 percent for Schedule Caste
  • 89.3 percent wants the government to ensure that all schools provide additional academic support to students who experienced learning loss and roll NEP provisions like breakfast in schools; figure stands at 95.25 percent for Schedule Caste
  • 88.3 percent of the respondents want the government to universalize PDS and continue providing free food grains to the poor in pandemic beyond the month of March 2022

What should the government do to increase the availability of the funds for social service:

  • 89 percent of the respondents want the government to impose fines on private companies that do not fulfill environmental norms
  • 84 percent wants the government to place a 2% COVID surcharge on individuals earning more than INR 2 crore per annum; 89.3 percent wants the government to impose a temporary tax on companies making massive profits during the pandemic
  • What should be the overall priority of the government in the budget
  • 97.4 percent of respondents want the government to control inflation in prices of fuel prices and food
  • 94.4 percent wants the government to Introduce a Right to Health
  • 93.6 percent wants the government to expedite government recruitment to increase employment of youth; percentage as high as 98 for respondents from SC category
  • 90.9 percent wants the government to provide COVID vaccination to be done free in both private and public health institutions
  • 80 percent want the government to address profiteering by private providers in education and health
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Click here for the survey report

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