BY SAMAN BHAT ’22
The Indian government is currently facing backlash over a leaked employment report released to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 29. The Business Standard, an Indian nancial newspaper, revealed that India’s unemployment rate was at an all-time high of 6.1 percent, the highest it has been since the 1970s. Meanwhile, the youth unemployment rate, according to Quartz India, increased, “[from] 11 million in 2011-12 to 31 million in 2017-18,” a growth of about 60 percent more unemployed youth workers in six years.
The statistics do not bode well for India’s current prime minister Narendra Modi, who is up for re-election in the spring. Modi built his 2013 platform on a promise of bringing billions of jobs to Indians across the country, a promise he has not followed through on according to data analysis from the New York Times.
The unemployment rate rose to these levels after changes in India’s economic policies. In 2016, Modi announced the demonetization of all 500 and 1000-rupee notes currently in circulation. The hope was to rid the country of illegal cash; however, the idea back red as the 500 and 1000-rupee notes accounted for over 86 percent of the currency in circulation, according to the BBC. The demonetization particularly impacted the agricultural sector in western India, where farmers are paid exclusively in cash. It also resulted in the shutdown of many small businesses. According to The Guardian, at least 1.5 million people lost their jobs, and former nance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram tweeted that the “Indian economy lost 1.5 [percent] of GDP in terms of growth,” as a result of Modi’s order.
The content of the report is not the only cause for outrage. Because the information had to be leaked to be released to the public at all, the government has been accused of withholding this information purposefully so as not to impede Modi’s chances of re-election. According to the Washington Post, India’s National Statistics Commission (NSC) normally releases such reports fve days after they are approved, yet for weeks this report was kept secret. It was not until an unknown source leaked the report to The Business Standard that the public became aware of the situation.
On Monday, Jan. 28, two of the NSC’s most prominent members resigned, including J.V. Meenakshi and Acting NSC Chairperson P.C. Mohanan. According to the Indian Express, Meenakshi and Mohanan resigned in protest of the delayed release in the report. Monahan explained the reason for their resignation to The Business Standard: “Over the months, we have been feeling that we were not taken seriously and being sidelined by the government,” he said.
Rajiv Kumar, the Vice Chairman of the National Institution for Transforming India, released a statement last Thursday, Jan. 31, on behalf of the Indian government in an attempt to explain the delay in the release of the reports. According to the Times of India, Kumar stated that, “The government did not release the data (on jobs) as it is still being processed. When the data is ready we will release it.” He claimed that it was, “Not correct to use this report as nal,” as the data had not yet been verified by the government.
Even so, this has not stopped Modi’s opponents from building up even more sentiment against the prime minister among the public. India’s president of Congress, Rahul Gandhi, tweeted that the situation was a “national disaster.” In his tweet, he called for the prime minister to leave office, saying that it was, “Time for NoMo2Go.”
Aditi Parashar ’22, an international student from India, doesn’t think it’s likely that Modi will be held ac- countable. “With every policy that has come out that has reduced jobs, it is only the lower class [...] that have been affected,” said Parashar. “I feel like everyone who the unemployment is affecting is the people who are in the lower sections of the society, so nobody is listening to them [...] the upper class of society are going to get jobs no matter what.”
Kusha Chopra ’21 was not surprised by the unemployment report, because “the goals [Modi] set out to accomplish have not been fulfilled.”
Saachi Khandpur ’22 also thinks that Modi’s policies unfairly affected Indian workers, but she believes that Modi’s unpopularity will hurt him in the polls. “At least in our generation and among middle class people, we’re less likely to vote for him again because we are really against him,” she said.
Modi faces the wrath of disgruntled voters in an upcoming election. In order to deflect some of the blows coming his way, Modi and his team released a new budget report on Friday, Feb. 1, hoping to bring voters back to his side, according to the New York Times. The budget report will incorporate financial support for farmers and tax cuts for the middle class, but the opposition party has taken to promising a universal basic income, as reported by Al Jazeera. The fate of Modi and the In- dian prime ministerial election will be decided in May.