“India’s economy was growing at a good pace, If it had not been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic we would have been in the top 3 economies in the world in 7-8 years,” said, India’s defense minister, Rajnath Singh, while attending a book launch, on Tuesday.
The nationwide lockdown imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating effect on the economy. States were locked down, businesses were shut and several multinational companies such as Zomato, Swiggy, Uber amongst others, had to lay off personnel. Ola laid off around 1400 employees, Swiggy had to cut down on around 14% of its workforce, Zomato implemented salary cuts of up to 50% for 6 months. Contract employees were directly in the line of fire as many working in commerce, insurance, retail, and journalism fields were left without work.
But the economy has shown signs of recovery after the strict lockdown was lifted. Vital indicators of the economy such as foreign investments, employment, and exports show that the economy is gradually recuperating. For instance, spice exports from India saw a rise of 34% in rupee terms in June.
The automobile sector has also seen an increase in exports, as Maruti, India’s leading automobile manufacturer, is planning to boost its share of exports. Data from the Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE), show that unemployment decreased in June and July as compared to March 2020.
An estimated 121.5 million jobs were lost in April 2020. It recovered to 100.3 million in May and fell to 29.9 million in June. However, the recovery of jobs has largely been in the informal sector and there have been no improvements in salaried jobs.
While the economy is showing signs of gradual recovery, it remains a point of contention if the Covid-19 pandemic is entirely responsible for India’s economic downfall. The BJP led regime has always been under the scanner for poor economic decisions, needless expenditures and showmanship, and hollow gestures.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently attended Bhumi Poojan and laid the foundation for Ram Mandir. While this entails the fulfillment of one of the longest-running poll promises of Indian democracy, an estimate of 300 crores will be spent on the grand temple. This expenditure will be incurred in the next three years when our economy will be recovering from the effects of COVID-19. The union government suffered from a shortage of funds but money was spent on hollow gestures such as armed forces showering rose petals on hospitals and health workers.
The amount could have been spent on securing PPE kits or paying for train tickets by workers. While these blunders were made during the pandemic, it’s track record before the pandemic is not boastful either.
The statue of unity was built on 31st October 2018 was built at an estimated cost of 2,989 crores. To put things into perspective the same amount could have funded two new Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campuses, five Indian Institute of Management (IIM) campuses, and six Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) missions to Mars. An RTI filed by Mumbai based activist, Anil Galgali, revealed that between the period of 2014-2018, an estimate of “4300 crores was spent in Public Relations”. These largely included expenses on electronic media and PR expenses. The unemployment rate in the period 2017-2018 stood at an all-time high of 45 years, but the report was not released by the government until after the 2019 elections.
While employment, health, and education are key indicators of a country’s economic growth. The government chose to spend on statues, temples, and media PR. BJP’s narrative has now changed and the blame has been conveniently shifted to the Covid-19 pandemic. The economy will indeed take years to recover and the Covid-19 pandemic has further pushed us back. But the blame for this has to be shared by bad policy decisions and hollow expenditure by the Central government.