By Krishna Jha
India has been repeatedly claimed to be as the one among five most developed economies in the world, but in reality there is no content in the boast. It is a country where in recent years GDP has kept falling and any ascent appears much more than what it has been.
With an eye on the coming elections, most of the steps are taken and have been packaged with all the shines, though the high colour cannot cover the miseries of hunger, deprivation and death. The first Advance Estimates (FAE) of National statistical office (NSO), 2022-23, about the Gross Domestic Product is expected to grow seven percent only. . The first advance estimates obtained from extrapolation of seven month’s data, are released early in January, to frame the contours of the budget for the coming financial year.
The GDP rate has been slower than the 8.7 percent of 2021-22, but little higher than the Reserve Bank of India rating of 6.8 percent a year for the current financial year. The GDP projection of 7 percent factors in a 0.2 percent contraction in private final consumption expenditure during second half of the current financial year, indicating weak demand and the impact of slowing exports. India’s nominal GDP which factors in the inflation rate, is set to grow by 15.4 percent in 2022-2023, still declining. Agriculture, the food basket in the country, is expected to grow at 3.5 percent in the financial year (FY)2023, as against the growth in previous year. The manufacturing sector is seen growing 1.6 percent as against 9.9 percent last fiscal.
The challenges for the slowing down of growth are many. It was there even before the pandemic months. It started in 2016, and continued for four consecutive years, while the growth rate kept declining each year. It was a constant slide and the country had never experienced such disaster since Independence. Inequality too kept growing. Slowly it became highly disproportionate in last few years. The growth remained confined to the top few with shares of profits collected by the corporate sector has been out of proportion. Then there has been the negative growth that keeps eroding the economy as a whole. Since the investment rate has many drivers like monetary policy, fiscal policy, social and political factors, among all of them, trust plays a major role. If trust faces erosion, investment takes nose dive. Result is that the average Indian remains not only poorer but almost deprived of every essential on which life thrives.
The NSO’s numbers also show that the average Indian was poorer in 2020-21, and still getting poorer in 2021-22, as compared to 2019-20. Also, one would have spent and will spend less in these two years than one spent in 2019-20. The per capita income and per capita consumption expenditure at constant prices in the three years are indicators that are quite worrying. Despite appeals to substantially increase government expenditure, the Government Final Capital Expenditure (GFCE) was only Rs 45,003 crore more in 2020-21 than in the previous year. Similarly, it will be only Rs 1,20,562 crore more in 2021-22 than in the previous year.
Investments are also limping. Gross Fixed Capital Formation in 2021-22 will move up little (Rs 1,21,266 crore) over the level achieved in 2019-20, totally insufficient in a pandemic-hit economy.
Among the people, however, there is more concern about prices of gas, diesel and petrol than about the GDP. Unemployment remains the prime issue that blocks life at every stage. According to the CMIE, the urban unemployment rate is 8.51 per cent and the rural unemployment rate is 6.74 per cent. The reality is grimmer: many persons who hold a ‘job’ are disguising their unemployment. There is concern about prices of essentials like pulses, milk, cooking oil and gas. There is concern about the education of children: in rural India and poor neighbourhoods of urban India in many parts of the country, children hardly attended any classes since the teaching itself was stopped since last two years. There is concern about security. Most mixed communities in the states of north and central India are living like in a tinderbox fearing the spark that will start a conflagration. There is concern about hate speech, digital abuse, trolls and crime, especially crimes against women and children. There is concern about the pandemic and the new variants.
Those in power do not care about the real concerns of people. They have taken the high road to fight election battles. Constitution that has been the guiding force since independence faces the knife whenever contradictions emerge.
Those promoting the concept of Hindu Rashtra are in fact promoting ideas that were floated as early as in 1920s as part of British colonialists’ divide and rule policy. Their bid to create confusion between Hindutva and Hinduism is something they have been doing ever since they started serving the British colonial interests. Hinduism is a religious expression while Hindutva is a reformed and distorted political ideology under which the revival of rituals and beliefs create the context for the autocracy. In this process, instead of keeping up the democratic traditions, there is decline, visible in every sphere. (IPA Service)