Oxfam India takes the fight against inequality to the streets

Oxfam India takes the fight against inequality to the streets

  • Others
  • by Oxfam India Staff
  • 30 Jan, 2019

Oxfam India along with other leading civil society institutions organised a mass mobilization to fight rising inequality in India. The mobilization titled, Asamanta Bhagao (Smash Inequality) was held at East Delhi’s Trilokpuri area on 19th January, with local residents, youth volunteers, artists and prominent voices of human rights activism collectively taking a stand against inequality and urging the government to end inequality in India.

The mobilization was timed to coincide with the Global Week of Action against inequality organised by Fight Inequality Alliance. This was also specially timed to overlap with the World Economic Forum in Davos where world’s elites gather to shape future business agendas. The action saw participation of 16 states across India-- including Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, TN, Kerala, Manipur, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh, Telangana and UP.

Globally, the objective of the week is to disrupt the global conversations around Davos challenging corporate influence, elite capture and build the global movement against inequality. The focus of the 2019 mobilization was to help connect movement-building moments across the world in the excluded parts of cities such as Manilla, Jakarta, Delhi, Johannesburg, Nairobi, Tunis, Dakar, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, London and Washington DC, where urban communities hit by obscene inequality are organised to resist the unjust distribution of wealth and power.

Why fight Inequality?

While India’s constitution commits to the principle of equality, some citizens of India are more equal than others. There are inequalities between the rich and the poor, between the genders, between the various social groups, between those with and without disabilities, between rural and urban areas and between the lived realities of those living in different states in India. This is manifested in a number of ways including access and relative quality of essential services like health and education, access and control over natural resources, taxation and banking systems, access to government planning spaces and justice among others.  

Since we have grown in this unequal society, many accept inequality as inevitable. It is not. Inequality is a policy choice that governments make. A different, fairer and more equal India is possible.


The mobilization event in Delhi combined musical performances, stand-up comedy and discourse on myriad facets of inequality by noted voices from the civil society. A highlight of the show included music artist Rahul Ram and comedian and satirist, Sanjay Rajoura (doing an edition of Aisi Taisi Democracy- a music+comedy show, on inequality), a performance by Barefoot College puppetry team from Tilonia, Rajasthan, Azad Parindey Band, We Are Nomads Drummers Circle, Delhi Young Artists Forum. The performances were interspersed with speeches from activists addressing specific manifestations of inequality.

Here are some glimpses from the event

Income inequality in India
Bird's eye view of Asamanta Bhagao in Trilokpuri, Delhi. Photo by Javed Sultan
What is income inequality
Residents took active part in the event which showcased a cultural medley and dialogue on Inequality. 

Photo by Javed Sultan
How is income inequality measured
We Are Nomads sets the mood for the show. Photo by Javed Sultan
income inequality facts
Puppets from Barefoot College lighten the mood but also explain the issue of Inequality in India.

Photo by Javed Sultan


Speakers who addressed the gathering included:

1.       Kamla Bhasin, women's rights activist on Gender

2.       Annie Namala, Convenor, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan on Education. She said, "Time has come to move from Gareebi Hatao to Inequality/ Asamanta Bhagao".

3.       Arman Ali, Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), on Disability Rights.

income inequality causes
Photo by Javed Sultan

4.       Bezwada Wilson, human rights activist, on Dalit issues

Inequality is real and rising in india reveals oxfam report
“The government should be ashamed that it has failed to address inequality. Equality is promised to the citizens under the constitution of India. More than half a century has passed since Independence and look at the state of inequality in the country. If equality cannot be guaranteed then the government has no right to make tall claims of making great strides in development and economy,” said Bezwada Wilson. 

Photo by Javed Sultan

5.       Harsh Mander, former IAS and social activist, on Muslims and Inequality

6.       Jaya Singh, Associate General Manager with CRY- Child Rights and You, on Child Rights

7.       Amitabh Behar, CEO Oxfam India on society and inequality

amitabh behar CEO oxfam india on inequality and the indian society
“Inequality has been systematically pushed through policy over years. The event is anticipated to bring together a large number of participants including active citizens, youth and activists from across India. This would be followed by a number of decentralized actions during the week to manifest the need to reduce inequality,” said Amitabh Behar. 

Photo by Javed Sultan

How are we fighting inequality?

We believe that a political approach is needed to fight inequality by making it a mass issue and a popular campaign, addressing the core perceptions that sustain inequality and building a culture of equality.  It involves challenging the policy choices that India has made in the previous years that privileges the rich over the poor and the fundamental economic model that sustains inequality and addressing the rising phenomena of crony capitalism and privatization. At the same time, this would entail recognizing that progress has been made in the preceding decades, but the reduction in poverty and growth of the national economy should not create a sense of complacency.


How does your voice urge the government to deliver real change on creating an equal India?

Governments can deliver real change by clamping down on tax dodging and ensuring corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of tax and investing this money in quality and inclusive healthcare and education that meets the needs of everyone- including women and girls whose needs are so often overlooked. Governments can build a brighter future for everyone –not just a privileged few.

The government need to set concrete time-bound targets to reduce inequality. It needs to:

  • End under taxation of rich individuals and corporations

Stop the race to the bottom on personal and corporate taxes and increase tax rates to fairer levels. Introduce, increase and improve taxes on wealth. Eliminate tax avoidance and evasion by corporates and the super-rich.

  • Invest in health, education, and other public services that work for women and girls.

Invest in delivering universal public services that are free for all citizens. Stop supporting privatisation of public services. Provide pensions, benefits and other social protections to all who need them. Build services that increase equality between men and women. 


  • Free up women’s time by making unpaid care an integral part of economic decisions.

Let unpaid carers have a say in budget decisions and make freeing up women’s time a key objective of government spending. Invest in time-saving public services including water, electricity and childcare. Design all public services in a way that works for the time-poor.



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