'Centre cut off from harsh realities': Opposition raises concerns over growing unemployment

Opposition accuses govt of economic detachment; Treasury benches defend with data on urban employment recovery. Debates on jobless growth, selective facts, and development challenges ensue.
Rajya Sabha MPs during the Winter Session of the Parliament, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Screengrab | SansadTV)
Rajya Sabha MPs during the Winter Session of the Parliament, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Screengrab | SansadTV)

NEW DELHI: Opposition members in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday accused the government of being cut off from the ground reality of the economic situation but treasury benchers hit back, asking them not to rely on selective facts and planted questions.

During the discussion on the economic situation in the country after MoS Finance Pankaj Chaudhary laid on the table a statement on the Supplementary Demands for Grants 2023-24, Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) alleged the ruling members were only indulging in propaganda and publicity.

"When the ruling party members were speaking yesterday it appeared as if they were from another planet. They don't know what is happening on this side," he said in the afternoon session, alleging they were indulging only in propaganda and publicity using Prime Minister Narendra Modi's name.

"In the per capita GDP index, out of 194 nations, we are at 133. The condition of the common people shows where we stand in the world even if we are the fifth (largest economy in the world)," he noted.

Yadav claimed that there is not a single village that has a 100 per cent tap water connection under the government's much-vaunted 'Har Ghar Nal' scheme, and asked how many beneficiaries were able to refill their gas cylinders received under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana.

Mahesh Jethmalani (BJP) countered the Opposition's claims that the high growth rate India witnessed has not translated into indicators vital for the poor, such as high employment and low inflation.

Citing data from the periodic labour force survey (PLFS), which former finance minister P Chidambaram had relied on Tuesday to attack the government for driving jobless growth, Jethmalani said post-COVID, urban employment registered a robust V-shaped recovery after the adverse impacts during the lockdown and second wave of the pandemic.

As urban areas were most affected by the pandemic, Jethmalani said, "The complete recovery in employment in urban areas is crucial. The unemployment rate recorded in the April-June quarter of 2023 is the lowest over the last five years."

From 2017-18 to 2019-20, regular wage/salaried employees increased by 1.5 crore, a growth of 13.2 per cent. The rise among females was 0.72 crore or 29.4 per cent and that for males 0.79 crore or 8.8 per cent, he added.

"It is the right of the Opposition not merely to ask questions but to ask incisive, searching questions of the treasury benches. But equally, it behoves the Opposition not to buttress their case with selective facts, planted questions and distorted data," Jethmalani asserted.

Fauzia Khan (NCP) retorted, highlighting the escalating unemployment crisis in India, particularly the dearth of government jobs, and said a huge number of youth are either getting into crimes or dying by suicide due to a lack of employment opportunities.

"We understand that this government has decided to put the number system in fifth gear by relying on headline-friendly numbers, turning the nation's progress into a click-bait economy. This is reducing complex issues to attention-grabbing figures and potentially overlooking the nuanced aspect of comprehensive development," she said.

"Development is not about tall buildings housing tall claims. It is about the quality of life that can never be measured in numbers," Khan added.

Similarly, Mahua Majhi (JMM) said India wants to be a "Vishwa Guru", but it is facing a big problem of unemployment. "What can a hungry person contribute to the growth of the country?" she asked.

Binoy Viswam (CPI) asked where is the "V-shaped development" when many people of the country are still "hungry and youth are unemployed."

Birendra Prasad Baishya (AGP) said at a time when the world's major economies are struggling India is doing very well with inflation going down and forex reserve at an all-time high.

Santanu Sen (AITC) said two pictures of the Indian economy emerge, one is of privilege, and another is of poverty. In the Global Hunger Index (GHI), India has been placed at 111 out of 125 countries, among the bottom 15.

"India has the maximum unemployment in the last 45 years. Per capita income is even less than one-fifth of China and less than 1/32 of USA," he said.

Moreover, the government has also curtailed the budget of MGNREGA by 33 per cent in the budget, which is a sizeable amount. "154 farmers and daily wagers die by suicide every day," he said.

Jebi Mather Hisham (INC) said the face of growth claimed by the Modi government is under a cloud of suspicion as several indicators like poverty and unemployment point to the contrary.

"The National debt stood at Rs 58.60 lakh crore, which is 52 per cent of the GDP as of March 31, 2014, and today, it is 155.60 lakh crore, 57.10 per cent of GDP," she added.

Jawhar Sircar (AITC) raised concerns over the rising unemployment.

In 2022, India's youth unemployment rate was 23.22 per cent, which was even higher than 11.3 per cent in Pakistan, 12.9 per cent in Bangladesh and 14. 4 per cent in Bhutan.

P Wilson (DMK) said the government promised to double farmers' income, clean the Ganga, and inland water transport system, and creation of two crore jobs, but it never happened. "There is the failure of Make-in-India, Startup India, Demonetisation and GST regime. Policies have weakened the institutions and the economy, and these are shining examples of how the economy of India is," he said.

Dinesh Sharma of the BJP said government schemes have helped to uplift 13.5 crores from the poverty line.

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