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How Congress has failed Manmohan Singh in order to appease crown prince Rahul Gandhi

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ManMohan

By Amulya Ganguli 

The Narendra Modi government’s chief economic advisor, Arvind Subramanian, has said that the rate of poverty reduction from 2005-06 to 2011-12 was the fastest in the country’s history. The reason, according to him, was “fast GDP growth”.

Rarely before has the Manmohan Singh government received such a handsome compliment on its performance. Although it has been known that an estimated 138 million people were lifted from below the poverty line when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was in power, Subramanian’s praise is the first by someone not associated with the present government.

What is worth examining, however, is why the Congress itself has been reticent about this achievement although the party’s senior general secretary, Digvijay Singh, a “loose cannon” in his own words, did acknowledge once that millions of the “poorest of the poor” had been elevated into the lower middle class category because of Manmohan Singh’s “right” policies.

Notwithstanding this realization, the Congress has generally been silent about its own government’s excellent record in the matter of poverty reduction whereas one would have thought that it would have been trumpeted by the party during and after the election campaign.

The reason for this quietness cannot be unrelated to the party’s first family’s fear that an acknowledgment of this remarkable feat will, first, turn the former prime minister into a hero at the expense of the crown prince, Rahul Gandhi, and, secondly, that it will underline the success of the reforms process.

The exaltation of the putative “regent” over the heir-apparent was evidently unacceptable to the Congress. After all, the former was only expected to keep the seat warm for the dauphin and not put up an admirable show of governance.

Moreover, the fact that the poverty reduction tapered off from 2011-12 would point to the period when Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s aggressive espousal of costly welfare programmes led to the government taking its foot off the accelerator of reforms, as the former finance minister, P. Chidambaram, has said.

It will not be besides the point, therefore, to speculate that if Sonia Gandhi hadn’t opted for the various populist measures on the advice of the left-of-centre National Advisory Council headed by her, the high growth rates would have led to further poverty reduction and, perhaps, enabled the UPA to return to power for the third time.

Yet, sadly for the party, the left-leaning ideological inclinations of the first family, and also of a sizable section of its members, led to its worst-ever defeat.

What is strange, however, is that like the proverbial Bourbons of France, the Congress seems to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. Not only has it refused to recognize the root cause of its defeat – the folly of junking reforms – the party is now determinedly turning even more to the left in a manner which has made finance minister Arun Jaitley mock it for positioning itself on the “left of Marx”.

But the Congress will do well to remind itself that the poverty reduction began within a year of its return to power in 2004 not because it was pursuing socialistic policies, but had restarted the reforms process under its original promoter of 1991, Manmohan Singh.

What is more, the process took off although the communists, who are dead against pro-market policies, were then an ally of the government. As a result, the reforms proceeded haltingly, as when another ally, the DMK, rejected the move to disinvest the Neyvelli Lignite plant in Tamil Nadu, and subsequently when there was firm opposition by the Trinamool Congress and others to allow foreign investment in the retail sector.

Even then, notwithstanding the slow pace of reforms, the lives of the “poorest of the poor” were gradually improving as they moved up into what Modi once called the “neo-middle class” with aspirations to rise further.

The Congress, however, still appears to believe that poverty alleviation is best achieved not through economic growth, but by the distribution of doles and subsidies. Behind this belief is probably the calculation that the largesse will be seen as the bounty of the munificent dynasty which presides over the party’s destiny and that gratitude for the benevolence will translate into votes for the Congress.

It is this feudal mindset which baulked at the possibility of Manmohan Singh receiving all the applause for lowering poverty rates, thereby making it nearly impossible for Rahul Gandhi to step into his shoes, as was being speculated at the time.

It is obvious enough that the party cannot but suffer if the interests of a family are put above those of the organization. Its travails will be all the greater if the family members lack the intellectual acuity required at a time of economic change, which is reflected in the expansion of the middle class to accommodate social sections which were earlier outside its fold.

The BJP has understood the change that is taking place, which is why its government has continued to allow foreign investment in the retail sector although the party is against it. This is the difference between a political approach and one based on feudal subservience.

While Modi had the gumption to go against his party, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) had the honesty to admit that his party erred in opposing the nuclear deal in 2009.

The Congress, however, has only said that its defeat was the result of its failure to communicate its achievements. It is a half-truth because it is still unwilling to do so lest it should hurt Rahul Gandhi’s prospects. (IANS)

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com)

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Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. Pixabay

For people streaming in from rural areas around New Delhi, the first stop is a collection of busy city intersections where contractors select daily wage labor from the crowds of young and old waiting every morning to get work.

Many standing at these intersections say they get work for barely half the month. “I have the ability to work hard. I never turn down any work. But I would prefer to get a cleaner, permanent job,” says 29-year-old Tek Chand. “The problem is one day I have money to buy rations, the next day I don’t.” Like millions of others, he migrated from his village three years ago to seek work and a better life in the city.

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA
As India prepares for general elections on April 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being attacked by opposition parties for failing to make good on a promise he made in 2014 to create millions of jobs for India’s huge young population. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rebuts that criticism and says India is generating new opportunities as it becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies.

Job creation is a massive challenge for a nation with one of the world’s youngest populations — half the country’s 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25.

Recent data shows that joblessness has soared to record high levels. Opposition parties have made joblessness one of their principal election planks and have accused the prime minister of failing the estimated 8 to 10 million young people who enter the workforce every year.

The independent Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that unemployment reached 7.2 percent last month and that 11 million jobs were lost in 2018. With a working population of 500 million, that translates into more than 30 million people waiting for jobs. An unpublished official survey that showed unemployment at a 45-year-high has also been widely quoted by Indian media.

India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019.
India’s main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019. VOA

On the campaign trail, the head of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Modi’s principal challenger, talks repeatedly about a “jobs crisis.”

“Our government is refusing to accept that we have a massive crisis and potential disaster in front of us,” Gandhi told a group of university students in New Delhi recently, many who will be first time voters.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. It points to a recent industry report that jobs have been created in the medium and small sectors.

The BJP says millions of people have found work in the transport and infrastructure sectors or as delivery boys in booming online businesses as India becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. They point out that the issue is not jobs but livelihoods, and point to millions of people who are not counted in job data.

They are self-employed people like cab owner Chain Pal Singh. As the app based taxi business boomed, Singh’s friend, who operated a cab, persuaded him to quit his job and take out a loan to buy a car. His decision has paid off — in four years he has earned enough money to invest in two more cabs.

Singh says he is much better off than when he held a job. “I used to earn about $225 dollars a month. Now in some months I can earn almost double that amount. Its beneficial for me.”

Following defeats in key state elections in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament last month, “This truth has to be acknowledged. The unorganized sector has 80 to 85 percent of the employment.” He pointed to millions of commercial vehicles sold in recent years and questioned if they had not generated jobs for drivers.

Economists admit India’s large informal sector has made it difficult to calculate employment, but they say joblessness or underemployment remains the country’s biggest challenge. While scarcity of jobs is not a new problem, two disruptive economic steps in the last two years exacerbated the problem.

In 2016 a sweeping currency ban meant to tackle the problem of illegal cash, dried up jobs as it created huge currency shortages, particularly in small businesses and in the countryside. A poorly-implemented tax reform known as the Goods and Services Tax a few months later was another blow to businesses.

Meanwhile, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign, which aimed at making India a manufacturing hub like China, has made a slow start and sluggish labor-intensive sectors cannot cater to growing numbers of job seekers.

“We can’t keep patting ourselves on the back that we are the fastest growing economy specially if all these other indicators are not growing at a rate that will absorb the growing labor force,” says Santosh Mehrotra, a human development economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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He points out that exports, another sector that created a number of jobs has also not been performing well.

As the campaign heats up, the opposition will try to keep the spotlight on jobs, or lack of them, even as the BJP tries to focus on national security following a recent confrontation with Pakistan. The final verdict on whether to give Prime Minister Modi a second term in office will be delivered by millions of voters when they cast their ballots. (VOA)

One response to “Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?”

  1. If the employment picture is bleak despite the construction of so many more Kilometers of roads, railways, air ports, bridges, toilets and other infrastructures compared to the five or even ten years of UPA government, imagine where we would be if we had UPA III government .