Friday, May 24, 2024

Development under NDA: Claims and Reality


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By H. Srikanth

Every day, the electronic media bombards us with claims about India making rapid strides in the economic sphere under the NDA regime. Fed with visuals of industries, roads, airports, trains, digital and space technologies, efforts are on to make people believe India is marching towards a $5 trillion economy, and emerging as a global power. The blitzkrieg publicity given to state sponsored development and welfare programs gives the impression that all problems of poverty, unemployment, etc., are things of the past, and that India is now entering a brave new world of progress and hope. It’s time we interject the government claims and see how much of them are true.
India’s Growth Rate Story: The NDA wants us to feel proud that under Modi, India has surpassed the UK to occupy a fifth position in the world ranking of GDP ranking. But is this some new development? In 2011 itself, the IMF claimed India had attained a third position in the GDP. The NDA’s claim hides the fact that India’s per capita income in 2022 was US $2393, whereas the per capita income of the UK stood at US $45,544. India’s per capita income is less than 5% of the UK’s per capita. Even in Asia, many countries have better per capita income compared to India. Further, India’s growth rate under the NDA rule stagnated after demonetization. India experienced a negative growth rate (minus 5.8%) during 2020-21. The next year the government claimed 9 percent growth, which actually meant only a positive growth of only 3.2 percent. India could never attain pre-pandemic growth rate. The average annual growth rate under Congress led government (2004-14) was 6.8 percent, whereas under the NDA government, it is only 5.9 percent.
Widening Economic Inequalities: India’s growth story under the Modi regime is marked by increasing economic inequalities in the country. Total number of billionaires in India increased to 166 in 2022. The meteoric rise of India’s rich was made possible by the NDA government, which openly chanted the LPG (Liberalisation-Globalization-Privatization) mantra. Now, the Indian monopolies are finding a foothold in every business–railways, airports, shipping yards, defense, space research, mines, and oil and gas. The rapid growth of the rich was accompanied by the widening economic inequalities. According to the Oxfam report, the top 5% Indians hold 60% of national wealth, whereas the bottom 50% hardly owns 3% of the national wealth. India’s top 57 billionaires own as much as what the bottom 90% of Indians own.
The NDA government claims that its policies have drastically reduced poverty in the country from 24.8% in 2015-16 to 11.28% in 2022-23. But many economists and activists doubt the figures, and attribute the poverty figures to the changes in the definition and methodologies of identifying the poor. The government’s claims contradict with other reliable data of reputed international and national agencies. National Health Survey Report in 2017 stated that 19 crore people in the country were compelled to sleep on an empty stomach every night. Nearly 4500 children below the age of five die every day out of hunger. According to the Food & Agriculture report of 2018, the number of undernourished people in India is 14.8% more than the global and Asian average. According to recent reports, India occupies 134th position out of 193 countries in global HDI index and is placed at 111th position among 125 countries in Global Hunger Index. In its recent election manifesto, in the name of Modi’s guarantee, BJP promises free ration to 80 crore population for the next five years. Why should the government provide free ration to over 50 percent of the Indian population, if the government really believes that only 20 crore Indians are poor? The government knows its poverty figures are fudged.
Growing Unemployment: Modi’s government rejects the NSSO and the ILO’s figures on growing unemployment in India, and argues that its economic policies have addressed the problem of unemployment. But the facts tell a different story. Privatization, demonetization, moratorium on filling of the vacant posts in the PSUs, the effects of the Covid pandemic, and the decline of labour-intensive industries have drastically reduced employment opportunities in the country and India has been experiencing jobless growth. Agnipath scheme enforced by Modi’s government denies permanent employment in defense forces to the aspiring youth. The intensity of unemployment can be understood from the recent incidents. When the Indian Railways advertised for 90 thousand non-technical posts, one crore fifty lakh unemployed people applied for it. 255 among them are Ph.D. holders. In UP, for 60 thousand constable jobs, 48 lakh people applied. Even after knowing the dangers of working in war-torn countries, thousands of unemployed Indians have registered their names for jobs in Israel.
Rise in prices of essential commodities: The NDA government has been claiming that the inflation rate in the country is under control. Whatever be the government figures, the citizens through their lived experience know how the prices of all essential commodities- cereals, dal, cooking oil, sugar, vegetables and medicines have skyrocketed in recent years. In 2011 when international crude oil prices reached US $115 dollars, Manmohan Singh government increased the gas cylinder price to over Rs. 400. BJP leaders then created ruckus both inside and outside the parliament. But, after Modi came to power international crude prices fell down to $20 per barrel in 2016. Even then, Modi government did not reduce the oil and gas prices. Today the barrel price is around $86 per barrel, still less than what it was in 2011. Yet, the prices of gas, petrol and diesel are more than double the price of what it was during the Congress regime. Only because of the Lok Sabha elections, the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas are reduced a little. Everyone knows the prices will again go up once the elections are over.
Agriculture, Education and Health: According to official reports, around half of the agricultural households (50.2%) were in debt in 2019. Outstanding agriculture loans from the commercial banks stood at 18.4 lakh crores in 2020-21. The average earnings of an Indian farmers are only ten thousand rupees. In some states like Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal, the income is just around Rs. 4,800. Even to this day, the farmers’ suicide cases continue. The number of farmers who died by suicide in 2022 stood at 11,290, an increase of over 3.75% compared to the previous year’s figure. The NDA government proposed the farm laws promising multi-hold increase in the agriculture income. But the farmers rejected them as they viewed the farm laws enables the corporate to control agriculture. Under pressure, Modi government was forced to withdraw the farm laws. However, it is still silent on the farmers’ demand for the MSP.
The NDA government introduced the NEP 2020 and promised quality education that meets international standards. But the government does not allocate adequate funds for education. Health sector is no better. The government gives so much publicity about Ayushman Bharat, and such schemes, but the allocation for the health sector remains marginal. In the last few years, even the budget estimates for education and health are considerably reduced while doing the revised estimates. In absolute terms, the budget allocations look substantial but if we look at them as a percentage of the total annual budget, it becomes apparent that the allocation for education and health is marginal and also diminishing. For example, the budgetary allocation for education was reduced from 2.64% in 2020 to 2.5% in 2023. Similarly, the budgetary allocation for health, which accounted for only 2.2% of the total central budget in 2022, reduced further to 1.97% in 2023. In the recent budget (2024-25) the government reduced the allocation for the UGC to Rs. 2500 crores, a drastic decline from the previous year’s revised estimate of Rs. 6409 crores. What would be the quality of public education and public health in the country with such meager allocation is anybody’s guess.
Other Economic Indicators: As on 31st March 2023, India’s national debt is placed at Rs. 155 lakh crores. The national debt nearly tripled under the Modi government. According to an estimate, India borrows Rs. 4 lakhs every second. Forty percent of central revenue goes towards payment of interest for debts taken. Every Indian citizen carries a debt burden of Rs. 1.2 lakhs. In 2014, the fiscal deficit was 4.5%; now it is 5.6%. It is a pity that barring a few exceptions, the national media never presents an objective account of the national economy.


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