Despite Being The Richest Person In India, Mukesh Ambani Is Not The Top Donor In 2020

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Mukesh Ambani may be the richest person not just in India but in whole Asia, but when it comes to philanthropy, there are many people who have a bigger heart, apparently, than him.

Edelgive.org sent out a press release revealing the Indian version of the Edelgive Hurun Philanthropy List for 2020 earlier this week.

This yearly list has been in circulation for the past 7 years, making the current edition its seventh one. The list chronicles and ranks the net donations made by its participating members in the previous fiscal year. Among other things, the methodology of curating this list also considers the “causes” which most often receive these donations.

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In 2020, this list is even more significant as it represents, for the most part, the pre-COVID19 era, as well as highlights the few trends that came up at the end of the fiscal year 2019-2020 which might carry over to next year’s list.

The Verdict

The number of members of the list increased to 112 after the addition of 28 new members during the previous fiscal year. When summed up, the total donations made by the members of this list equals Rs. 12,050 crore. According to Edelgive, this is a 175% increase compared to last year. Out of the 112 members, 78 have made donations exceeding Rs. 10 crores.

Emerging triumphant over all these impressive figures is the reigning champion for the year, WIPRO founder Azim Premji, whose net donations of Rs. 7,905 crores have made him top the list. While not as well known as his other wealthy contemporaries, Premji is estimated to be the fifth wealthiest man in India.

Competing for the second and third spots are HCL founder Shiv Nadar and Reliance Industries founder Mukesh Ambani, who donated Rs. 795 crore and Rs. 458 crore respectively, taking the second and third spots on the list.

This finding comes as a slight shock to some as Mukesh Ambani is the wealthiest man in India, and has recently become the sixth wealthiest man in the world. Shiv Nadar on the other hand is considered the third richest man in India.

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This makes Premji the most generous Indian man in the fiscal year 2019-2020, overtaking Nadar who held this spot last year.

The youngest donor on the list was Flipkart CEO, Binny Bansal.

Rohini Nilekani was declared the most generous woman of the year.

Education was the cause with the highest support, like most years. However, there was an increase in donations to healthcare and water conservation projects/organizations.

India’s Wealth Distribution

India is a country often associated with poverty. It ranks 49th on the global poverty index, as of 2019.

As is the case with billionaires and millionaires everywhere else, they are also a threat to economic development in India. Over the years, there has been growing disillusionment regarding the glamour of acquiring, and in some cases, inheriting wealth in such exorbitant amounts.

According to OXFAM, the world’s billionaires have more wealth than 60% of the world’s entire population combined. In other words, around 2000 or so “super-rich” people in the world possess a combined wealth more than the total wealth of 4.6 billion people.

As time has gone by, scholars have identified that a major cause behind this increasing disparity among the middle class and the rich elite is the flawed taxation system most countries, including India, follow.

These are systems where the wealthy have greater governmental provisions when it comes to minimizing the taxes on their massive incomes in the form of investment boosting policies and indirect tax regimes. In their piece for Inequality.org, Max Lawson cites several text sources that provide more backing for these claims, going as far as revealing that the rich have a network of advisors who attempt to shape policies in their favor.

To make up for this loss in taxes, governments in-turn charge excessive indirect taxes from the working and middle class on their various purchases of consumer goods and services. These indirect taxes are subject to increase when the government needs to make up for bigger financial losses, as is predicted to happen post-pandemic.

While this happens, consumers also have a tighter market to shop from due to the monopolistic strategies big companies utilize to retain and expand their market share and presence.

In India’s case, in particular, such things become even more hard-hitting considering that it has a large unorganized sector with little to no job security, along with an already low pay scale and inadequate protective provisions from the government.

While programs like The Giving Pledge are actively stimulating wealth redistribution of sorts, they are not enough. Donations might stem from genuine philanthropist intentions and certainly do create an impact, but they often serve as distractions from the real problems of exploitation corporate practices are rife with.

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