TODAY -

India on 71st Republic Day

Raju Vernekar *



As we are set to celebrate 71 st Republic Day, the presence of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as the chief guest at the R day function assumes significance, since with this visit bilateral ties and strategic partnership between both the countries is expected to be strengthened.

The invitation extended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of 11th BRICS Summit held in Brasilia, was accepted with pleasure by Bolsonaro.

This year there will be 22 tableaux from 16 states/Union Territories and 6 Central ministries, rolling down the Rajpath in new Delhi, at the grand R day parade. NDRF was raised in 2006 for specific tasks of relief and rescue during natural and man-made disasters or similar life-threatening situations.

Over 600 school children will be carrying out exercises and drill. A spectacular march past by the Indian armed and paramilitary forces will be an added attraction. While R Day is a national festival, celebrated all over the country, it is important to take stock of situation related to different aspects of economy and social conditions prevailing in the country.

Economic slow down

The country is facing economic slow down. Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims for a 5 trillion dollar economy by 2024, the task seems to be difficult since GDP needs to grow steadily. As per the Government statistics, India’s economy is expected to grow at 5% (as against earlier forecast of 6.1 per cent).But experts including former Union Finance P Chidambaram have termed the claim as “exaggerated”. GDP came down to 4.5 per cent in quarter II of 2019-2020 (against 5 per cent in quarter I of 2019-2020) and declined consecutively for 7 quarters.

Inflation

The National Statistical Office (NSO), has indicated that the Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) has spiked to 7.35 per cent (from earlier 5.54 per cent) in December, triggering further growth concerns amid a slowing economy. The retail inflation is the highest witnessed since July 2014. The real worry for the RBI and government is the rate of food (vegetable) inflation, which was the key trigger behind the steep rise in inflation in December 2019.

Poverty

Nearly 25 states and Union Territories have been facing poverty, hunger, income inequality and every fifth Indian is below the poverty line states the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Index 2019-20 recently released by NITI Ayog. The index, aimed at measuring performance vis-a-vis the United Nations-mandated SDG goals, was prepared after a survey in 640 districts. With 21 per cent of the population below poverty line, India’s target is to bring it down to 10.95 per cent. However only six states have shown some improvement and other states are lagging behind.

Disinvestment in PSUs

The massive disinvestment in public sector undertakings (PSUs), amply proves that the economy is on unsteady wicket. Many PCUs-Air India(New Delhi) (debt burden of Rs 80,000 crore), BPCL (Govt’s share 53.29 percent), SCI (63.75 percent),Container Corporation of India Ltd. (New Delhi) (30.8 percent), Tehri Hydro Development Corporation India Ltd. ( THDCIL) (Rishikesh, Uttarakhand) (75 per cent), North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (NEEPCO), Meghalaya (100 per cent) and NTPC Ltd.( the government’s stake has already come down to 63) are on the disinvestment lit.

NDA Govt raised Rs 2,79,622 crore from the disinvestment of PSUs(2014-2019) compared to Rs 1,07,833 crore, raised by earlier UPA Government. Amid this the question why profit making BPCL figures in the list of disinvestment remains unanswered.

Investment in infra sector

Amid resource crunch, the Government has announced a plan to invest Rs.102 lakh crore in the infrastructure sector in the next 5 years to achieve the GDP target of $5 trillion by 2024-25. Some of the sectors are: NIP projects covering expressways, national gas grid and PMAY-G (Rs 42 lakh crore), energy (Rs. 24.54 lakh crore), Road projects (Rs. 19.63 lakh crore), Suburban infrastructure (Rs. 16.29 lakh crore) and railway projects(Rs. 13.68 lakh crore). Although a portion of this investment will be shared by respective state governments, the plan is expected to put enormous burden on the Central exchequer.

US- Iran Strife

The escalation in the tension between the US and Iran can have implications on India’s exports to the Persian Gulf nation, according to the Federation of Indian Exporters’ Association (FIEO). India’s exports to Iran in 2018-19 were worth $3.51 billion and the imports were valued at $13.52 billion. Indian exporters may find their payments getting blocked in the coming months. The rupee kitty with Iran, through which the payments to Indian exporters are made, is fast depleting. Unless an alternate mechanism is put in place, the Rupee-Rial trade might come to a grinding halt.

FDI

The Government has relaxed FDI norms in single-brand retail trading, contract manufacturing, coal mining, and digital media. Further, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is working on “ new industrial policy” and “national e-commerce policy” ,which are expected to be announced by March 2020. According to Union Commerce Minister Ramesh Prabhu, the government has been working on a plan to bring in $100 billion FDI this year.

Indian Rupee

Indian rupee has been hovering around 72 against US dollar. The rupee which went through bouts of volatility earlier, fell further to breach the 72 mark against the US dollar (USD), spooked by a surge in global oil prices. A surge in crude prices raised the spectre of a higher import bill for India.

Population

The population of India is estimated at 1,368,938,792 (equivalent to 17.74 per cent of the total world population) and India ranks second in terms of population in the world. 33.6 per cent population is urban (460,249,853) and remaining population is settled in rural areas. The population comprises 70,71,26,717 (51.6 per cent) male and 66,24,07,581 (48.4 per cent) women population. India is expected to add nearly 273 million people between 2020 and 2050.

Health

Despite various public health schemes, health care sector continues to remain neglected going by the recent death of 107 infants in Kota’s (Rajasthan) JK Lon Hospital within a month. Besides, a total of 146 children died in Umaid and MDM hospitals in Jodhpur in December.

Thus the issue of spike in fatalities at the state-run institutions and evidence of poor hygiene, broken equipment and staff shortages continues to raise head time and again. Sixty per cent of primary health centres (PHC) in India have only one doctor. Only 20 per cent of the PHCs fulfil Indian public health standard norms.

Food grains

Average yields of most crops in India are still rather low. Amid low income growth scenario, demand for food grains, is projected at the level of 256 MT this year. It comprises 112 MT of rice, 82 MT of wheat, 39 MT of coarse grains and 22 MT of pulses.

Literacy

The overall literacy rate in Urban India is 79.5 per cent ( 74.8 per cent women, 83.7 per cent men), while it is 64.7 per cent in rural India (56.8 per cent women, 72.3 per cent men).

There is a wide gender disparity in the literacy rate. The low female literacy rate has a dramatically negative impact on family planning and population stabilisation efforts.

Unemployment

Unemployment rate increased to 8.50 percent in October from 7.20 percent in September 2019. The unemployment rate averaged 5.16 percent from 1983 until 2019, reaching an all time high of 8.50 percent in October of 2019 and a record low of 3.53 percent in December 2011.

The latest Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) released by the National Statistical Organisation (NSO), Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir have the highest rate of joblessness, while Gujarat and Karnataka have the least joblessness.

Electrification

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 29, 2018, had declared that 6 lakh villages in the country were electrified by 100 percent. However official data, reveals that only 7.3 % of the total Indian villages, are having 100% household connectivity, and about 31 million homes in Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan are still in the dark.

Housing

The Government has announced to build 1.12 crore houses by 2022. It claims that 24 lakh houses were given to beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY(Urban) and the number will soon reach 50 lakh. But the fact remains that even after 4 years after the launch of PMAY-Urban, just 20 per cent houses were constructed, while another 52 per cent are grounded for construction.

Space Technology

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which has already made significant advancement is planning to send three astronauts to space for seven days by 2022, under “ Gaganyaan mission”, the indigenous human spaceflight programme. India is expected to become one of the most powerful countries in the time to come. Let us hope that India becomes super power by 2030.


* Raju Vernekar wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on January 27 2020.



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