Opposition leaders on Friday criticised the Centre’s economic policies after latest government figures showed that Gross Domestic Product had contracted to 4.5% in the July-September quarter – the slowest growth rate in more than six years, and the sixth straight quarter of slowdown.
The Congress claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had pushed the economy in a coma.
“India’s GDP has collapsed to an abysmal 4.5%, and we are in a virtual free-fall. But why is the BJP celebrating when this is the lowest our GDP has sunk in six years,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala asked in a press conference on Friday evening. “That’s because GDP means Godse Divisive Politics to them, and by that measure, India can be seen to have achieved double-digit growth. It’s all about perspective.”
Surjewala was referring to the controversy created by BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur in the past week. She referred to Mahatma Gandhi’s killer Nathuram Godse a patriot earlier this week in the Lok Sabha but later claimed her comment was distorted. She was forced to apologise on Friday.
Surjewala alleged that “failed Modinomics” and “pakoda economic vision” had sunk the economy in deep recession. He said all investments and the employment rate were also at an all-time low under the BJP government.
“We want to point out that during 10 years of Congress government, GDP growth rate was at an average of 8.13%,” Surjewala added. “Even in the last year of Congress government in 2013-14, GDP growth rate was 6.39%. Let the nation compare it with BJP’s decimation of economy emanating from bankruptcy of economic vision.”
The Congress added that Sitharaman’s statement that there was no recession was like saying the “patient has been saved, but patient is in an unending coma”.
On Wednesday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Rajya Sabha that though economic growth might have slowed down, a recession would never occur. Sitharaman said India’s real economic growth rate was 6.4% between 2009 and 2014, but 7.5% in the subsequent five years.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday said he was deeply worried about the current state of the Indian economy. “We need to change current climate in our society from one of fear to one of confidence for our economy to start growing at 8% per annum,” Singh said. “State of economy is a reflection of state of its society. Our social fabric of trust and confidence is now torn and ruptured.”
While the economy is down, the government is in denial and the prime minister is busy with “tamashas”, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury said hours after the data was released on Friday. “Economic disaster is directly linked to increasing social disharmony created by BJP [government’s] policies – hate fanned, citizens divided, Gandhi’s murderer hailed, citizenship of millions questioned and people called termites.”
“Everything is being done by the current BJP dispensation to destroy constitutional values that make us a stable and secure nation,” Yechury added. “Economy cannot remain insulated from that project of destruction. It is not a policy issue alone, the problem are the people who are in power today.”
Yechury mocked the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government and said this was the “new India” and claimed the government wants a “Hindu rashtra” by keeping states at bay, according to India Today. He made the remarks at the National Conclave on Economy organised by the New Delhi-based Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies.
Referring to Sitharaman’s statement, Yechury asked what the solution was. “The economy in the country won’t do better until there is public pressure,” he said. “It is complete one-way traffic, no consultation. An authoritative govt which doesn’t want to listen to anyone.”
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen President Asaduddin Owaisi also criticised the slump in economic growth. Owaisi claimed the BJP’s measure of growth were now the National Register of CItizens, Article 370 and religion-based citizenship.
According to the latest figures, the agriculture sector grew 2.1% in the second quarter, compared to 2% in the one before, while growth in mining contracted from 2.7% to 0.1%. Manufacturing contracted 1% compared to a 0.6% growth in the first quarter. Electricity and other public utilities grew 3.6% as against 8.6% in the April-June quarter. The output of eight core industries last month declined 5.8% compared to October 2018.
The slowdown has been predicted by most agencies and world bodies. On Tuesday, American credit rating agency Fitch Ratings’ company India Ratings and Research revised its growth forecast for India in the 2019-’20 financial year to 5.6%. In October, the International Monetary Fund had lowered India’s projected growth in the current financial year to 6.1% but said it would rebound to 7% in the 2020-’21 financial year. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, in its September report, said the country’s economic growth was expected to slow down to just 6% in 2019 from 7.4% the previous year.
In August, credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service had downgraded the country’s projected GDP growth rate to 6.2% for 2019-’20. The Asian Development Bank in September slashed its projection for the country’s economic growth in the ongoing fiscal year from 7% to 6.5%, but said the economy would remain one of the fastest-growing in the world this year as well as the next.
In May, the government had released a report by the National Sample Survey Organisation that showed that India’s unemployment rate rose to a 45-year high of 6.1% in 2017-’18. Another survey showed that the monthly per capita consumption expenditure has declined for the first time in 2017-’18 since the 1970s.