India’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is hoping to secure a renewed mandate in this spring’s election to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament. But on 8 and 9 January, 150-200 million people across the country walked out of their workplaces to show their anger in the streets. Buses stayed in their depots, banks were closed, schoolchildren had an enforced holiday, motorways were occupied, and effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi were burned. Nearly every sector of the economy was affected. The police arrested many activists, especially in the state of Rajasthan; many workers were seriously injured.
Modi’s 2014 election campaign slogan proclaimed ‘Good times ahead’, yet five years on, there’s still no sign of them. Economic growth may have remained strong at more than 7%, and was recently praised by the International Monetary Fund. but unemployment has been so high that the labour ministry has not published figures since 2016. Young people are migrating from countryside to cities, willing to do any work at all, and even graduates have trouble finding jobs. In 2018 Indian Railways advertised 63,000 vacancies; 19 million people applied.
Modi has begun to privatise India’s railways and banking sector, and has cut the budgets for healthcare (already down to only 1.2% of GDP in 2018) and education (0.6%). The budgets for rural livelihood security under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantees Act, allowances to schools for providing free meals to all children, safe drinking water programmes and literacy initiatives are also being reduced.
Economic growth may have remained strong, but unemployment has been so high that the labour ministry has not published figures since 2016
The government is also reviewing 44 national labour laws, which have until now imposed a 48-hour week (an (…)
Full article: 841 words.
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