NEW DELHI, Feb 10: The Congress has slammed the “White Paper” on Indian economy brought out by the Narendra Modi government for “hiding more black truths” than revealing the present real state of the Indian economy.
The Congress Rajya Sabha member and party’s general secretary (organisation) K.C. Venugopal said in the Upper House during a discussion on the subject on Saturday that the “White paper” had hidden the “dark truths” like the impact of demonetisation on the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and the alarming unemployment rates under the Narendra Modi government.
The Congress leader averred that when the Finance Ministry was producing a White Paper it should have included the impact of demonetisation. He said, “There is no word on it.” “The stated motive behind demonetisation was to bring back black money. Why haven’t you given an account of the black money retrieved?” he asked.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr Venugopal said, had noted after demonetisation that it was a “legalised loot and organised plunder” and predicted that it would reduce GDP growth by 2%. His prediction has come true, Mr Venugopal said, adding, “What is the situation of MSMEs? They are finished. And because of the MSMEs’ closure the unemployment rates are skyrocketing. The unemployment rate during the UPA years fell from 8.40% in 2004-05 to 5.6% in 2011-12, while in October 2023 the unemployment rate was 10.05%.”
“This is actually not a White Paper, this is a paper hiding the dark truths of this country,” he said in the House. When Mr Singh was Prime Minister, the then Gujarat Chief Minister (Mr Modi) had said the rupee was on ventilator. “What about now? The average depreciation of the rupee was 30% under UPA and under the Modi regime since December 2014, it has depreciated by 43%,” he reminded the BJP.
He said when the BJP gives new guarantees, one has to think about the guarantees given by the Prime Minister on two crore jobs, bringing back black money stashed abroad in 100 days, depositing ₹15 lakh to every citizen’s bank account, doubling of farmers’ income by 2022, and achieving a $5 trillion economy by 2023.
“When you talk about guarantees given to people, talk about the guarantees already given,” he said, alleging that the government has not fulfilled those promises. Mr Venugopal said the government was talking about corruption. “But if you are sincere about corruption, why are you scared of coming out with the CAG report?” he asked.
“You are bringing this White Paper to abuse the UPA period of 2004-14, when we brought the Right to Education, Right to Employment, Right to Information, and Right to Food [Acts]. Can Nirmala ji [Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman] enlighten us, which is the flagship programme of the Modi government like MGNREGA, which has been a game changer? The 2004-14 period was like a game changer,” he asserted.
He claimed that during the UPA period, they had done a better job in managing deficits. “The poor are becoming poorer and the rich are becoming richer. The gap between the rich and the poor is rising. You are only interested in the corporate world. You said India’s average per capita has gone from $4,000 to $6,000. You are cleverly using the word “average per capita GDP”. But per capita GDP will increase in a developing country like India, but the annual average per capita GDP growth fell from 5.9% in Manmohan Singh tenure to 3.8% under Modi tenure,” he claimed.
“In other words, the average Indian’s income grew much faster when Mr Singh was the Prime Minister, he claimed, alleging that “You are hiding the facts. You are using the word only for your purpose.” Net foreign investment was 1.2% of the GDP during the UPA regime and it is 0.8% of the GDP in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule, he claimed.
“Simply put, foreign investors and consumers trusted our economy and products far more during the silent and esteemed Manmohan Singh [regime] than during the loud and bombastic Narendra Modi ji’s period. That period of Manmohan Singh was the golden period for private investment,” he said.
Manufacturers were also most confident during that period. Not just private corporates, even farmers did not show confidence during Mr Modi’s tenure, Mr Venugopal said, adding that the growth in foodgrain products fell from 34% to 31% during the period.
“The job market is depressing, especially for the youth. Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy said that unemployment in the age group of 20-24 years was 44.5% as per October-December 2023 statistics. For age the group of 25-29 years, it was 14.33%,” he claimed.
Taking part on the discussion, MP Fauzia Khan of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said, “More than calling it a White Paper on the Indian economy, I would call it a White Paper on the upcoming election.” Arguing that the paper does not speak about corruption, she asserted, “Corruption is on the rise but what can be done if the government refuses to see it?” Ms Khan further asked, “What about the people who have been called corrupt by the honourable Prime Minister and then later taken into his party as alliance members? Is this not corruption? How does a person become clean in two days?”
Trinamool Congress MP Saket Gokhale said the White Paper was “magical” since it does not mention any of the glaring failures of the Modi government including demonetisation which was one of the biggest setbacks to the Indian economy, he said.