Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Shatrughan Sinha have lashed out at the Narendra Modi government over economic slowdown. Their statements came two days after Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a slew of measures to reverse the slump the economy is in.

Gandhi, who is the party general secretary for eastern Uttar Pradesh, urged the government on Sunday to “take meaningful steps” and find “solution for people losing employment”. She said the government should initiate steps to boost the confidence of companies and investors instead of managing the crisis by attempting to influence the media.

“In the name of finding a solution to recession, the BJP government is only doing media management,” she tweeted. “There is a need for the government to make the whole situation clear. Find a solution for people losing employment, give confidence to companies and investors and encourage new investors and create job opportunities. The government should take meaningful steps.”

In a series of tweets, Sinha claimed industries such as aviation, automobile, non-banking finance and consumer goods were the worst-hit. “The ripple effects of this slowdown has spiked the unemployment rate to over 6%, an all time high in 45 years, over 30 million people are jobless!” he tweeted. “A grim testimony of the economic situation is Parle G’s decision to layoff over 10,000 people from its workforce due to declining consumer demand of the biscuits that we all grew up eating! The cookie has indeed started to crumble!”

A senior official of Parle who had made the comments about the imminent layoffs claimed on Friday that his comments had been “blown out of proportion”.

Sinha, who switched from the BJP to the Congress before the Lok Sabha elections this year, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide “a detailed roadmap/structural stimulus package to revive a volatile and struggling economy”.

Pranab Mukherjee’s concerns

The comments by the Congress leaders came a day after former President Pranab Mukherjee expressed concern about certain negative trends in the economy, The Hindu reported. He said the economy had not learnt the lesson from the past scandals and frauds.

“In the last couple of years, the frequency and scale of frauds revealed to stakeholders and the public at large have been astonishing,” he said at the annual lecture of the Association of Corporate Advisers and Executives in Kolkata. “Many would have thought that post-Satyam scandal lessons were learnt and proper governance practices put in place. However, with irregularities at Punjab National Bank, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services, amongst others, coming to the fore, the burning questions about loopholes in the system, accountability, risk management, etc, are again up for debate in the corporate world.”

The former president said the Modi government’s aim of reaching a $5-trillion economy was dependent on external factors such as the value of currency, real growth and econometric jugglery. Mukherjee presented seven Union budgets during his time in the Congress government.

India’s growth rate came down from 9.3% in the first quarter of 2010 to 5.8% in the last quarter of 2018-’19,” The Telegraph quoted him as saying. “Annual GDP growth is at a five-year low...Slowdown signs have started becoming visible since last year with the GDP growing at 6.6% in the October-December quarter of 2018.”

Mukherjee said the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax had led to the replacement of a number of central-level taxes. “However, there is a need for the government to bring more clarity in many contentious issues for better implementation and compliance in GST,” he added. “It is a well-known fact that economic development and growth will not be achieved if the finances are not managed well.”

Economic growth slipped to a five-year low of 5.8% in the January to March quarter. This was the slowest pace of growth in 17 quarters. A number of economists have also raised questions about the methodology of assessing official growth numbers.

Members of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council and other senior economists and officials have warned about a structural slowdown in recent weeks. Last week, NITI Aayog Vice Chairperson Rajiv Kumar said extraordinary steps were needed to deal with an unprecedented crisis in the financial sector. He said the government needed to encourage the private sector to invest, and eliminate apprehensions about policies in the minds of private players.

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