'Buried' survey shows unemployment at 45-yr high; opposition slams Modi govt

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Opposition leaders lashed out at the Narendra Modi government on Thursday after a media report about an unreleased survey showed unemployment in the country had reached 6.1 per cent, a 45-year high.

The report in Business Standard accesses data from the National Sample Survey Office's (NSSO's) periodic labour force survey (PLFS), which is yet to be released by the Modi government. The controversy is expected to come up in the budget session of Parliament, which commenced on Thursday.

The criticism comes after two members of the National Statistics Commission resigned on Monday to register their protest at the Modi government not releasing the PLFS data. According to the Business Standard report, the PLFS is the first major survey of employment by a government agency after the Modi government's demonetisation decision of November 2016. The PLFS was conducted from July 2017 to June 2018. The unemployment figure is the highest since 1972-73, the period since when comparable data has been available.

According to the Business Standard report, unemployment was higher in the urban areas (7.8 per cent) compared with 5.3 per cent in rural areas. The PLFS also notes that unemployment among youth (15-29 year-olds) varied from 13 to 27 per cent.

Not surprisingly, opposition leaders slammed the Modi government over the PLFS data. Randeep Singh Surjewala, in-charge of communications for the Congress, tweeted that the report explained why the PLFS data had not been released, adding, “Promise of 2Cr Jobs turned out to be a cruel joke! India does not want a Govt that has left the future of our youth in jeopardy.”

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) attributed the unemployment figures to demonetisation. The CPI(M)'s official Twitter handle tweeted, “Unemployment Rate at a 45 year high due to #DemonetisationDisaster! This is the report that the Govt was trying to bury which resulted in the 2 top statisticians of National Statistical Commission to resign. Time to throw this Incompetent, Corrupt, Dishonest Govt out!”

Psephologist-turned-politician Yogendra Yadav tweeted the high rate of youth unemployment mentioned in the PLFS report would have triggered street protests in any part of the world. Yadav tweeted, “So, this is why Govt prevented the release of data! No wonder, all polls this week found jobs the biggest issue. At 6.1% (up from 2.2% in 2012) unemployment is highest ever recorded One sixth of youth jobless. This would have sparked street protests in any part of the world.”