The Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday cited unemployment data to take a dig at the government’s claim that the economy was doing better during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime.
The Upper House took up a short-duration discussion on the economic situation in the country.
India’s GDP grew 7.6 per cent in the second quarter of 2023-24.
Trinamul Congress leader Derek O’Brien said the economy had performed in favour of the rich, with the richest 1 per cent controlling 40 per cent of the country’s wealth.
“If you see the economy through the eyes of any common person, you see that from 2014 to 2023, the price of rice has gone up by 56 per cent, wheat by 59 per cent, milk by 61 per cent and tur dal by 120 per cent,” he said.
O’Brien said 21 lakh workers from Bengal had not received wages for the last two years under the MGNREGA. Around 150 farmers are committing suicide every day and India has 23 crore poor people, the highest for any country, he added.
Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram questioned the growth rate, saying its impact was not felt on the ground.
“If we are a large economy growing at the fastest rate, why is it not seen in inflation numbers and unemployment rate? The BJP no longer talks about two crore jobs every year. That is one of the election jumlas,” he said.
Chidambaram quoted the official Periodic Labour Force Survey to say that the Workers Population Ratio (WPR), the share of working people in the population, was 46 per cent, including 69 per cent for men and 22 per cent for women. Less than 50 per cent of them actually work. The unemployment rate for graduates below 25 years of age is 42 per cent. Of those who are employed, 57 per cent are self-employed, which means their earning is low.
He also said rising prices of essential commodities combined with unemployment had affected the purchasing power of the public. Households are cutting down on consumption and borrowing money. As a result, the net financial savings of households have reached a historic low of 5.1 per cent in 2022-23, he added.
Chidambaram said 16.3 per cent of children were malnourished while 35.5 per cent were stunted.
“Why is this spirited growth not translating to jobs? Who is the government for? Is it for the poor or the rich?” Chidambaram asked.
The country’s GDP doubled from Rs 25 lakh crore in 1991-92 to Rs Rs 50 lakh crore in 2003-04 and to Rs 100 lakh crore in 2013-14.
Chidambaram asked finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman if the country would be able to double the GDP to Rs 200 lakh crore in 2023-24.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Ashok Kumar Mittal said the government should support the agriculture sector with a law on the minimum support price (MSP).
Biju Janata Dal leader Sujit Kumar said India was witnessing jobless growth and harped on the support for the medium, small and micro enterprises sector, which is a major creator of jobs.
YSR Congress Party leader V. Vijayasai Reddy said the depreciating rupee against the US dollar was alarming for India. This has affected foreign investment, he said.
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Manoj Jha said the fact that 80 crore people in India are being provided food by the government exposed the tall claims about growth.
“Bangladesh and Nepal have performed better than India in reducing income inequality. You may hail the share market but the farmers and youths are committing suicide,” he said.
BJP leader Sudhanshu Trivedi said India was set to lead the world economy. The International Monetary Fund says extreme poverty in India has been contained to less than 1 per cent, he said.
“There used to be a time when the world used to call our 2 per cent growth rate as Hindu growth rate. After this government came to power, our government has brought a Hindutva growth rate of 7.6 per cent,” he said.
The discussion remained inconclusive.