India must encourage local entrepreneurship to combat unemployment in the country, said a top official of a Hindu group affiliated to the ruling party, ahead of elections in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“One figure says that India is among the top six economies of the world. But is this a good situation?” Dattatreya Hosabale, general secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, said over the weekend.
“Top 1 percent of India’s population has one-fifth of the nation’s income. At the same time, 50 percent of the country’s population has only 13 percent of the country’s income.”
The comments, quoted in the Indian Express newspaper, come as the political opposition ratchets up rhetoric against unemployment and India’s richest men rapidly climb global wealth rankings.
Modi remains by far the most popular choice to lead the country, according to a survey conducted February-August, even as participants flagged inflation, unemployment and poverty as the biggest problems facing the nation.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party will win most seats in elections in the western Gujarat state due this year, albeit with its vote share eaten into by upstart rival Aam Aadmi Party, according to an opinion poll published Sunday.
Economic data show troubling trends under the hood, though India’s headline growth outstrips most major global markets.
Consumer-goods makers are reporting robust demand for items priced nearly US$2,000 (S$2,860) in a nation where per-capita income is just a tad above that level, while industry data on sales of budget phones priced below US$100 and motorcycles, an indicator of rural demand, are showing a weaker trend.
More Indians are leaving their farms and villages, an opportunity and challenge for the government that has to create jobs for the migrants to boost growth and tax revenues.
While India has overtaken the United Kingdom as the world’s sixth-largest economy, per capita income in the South Asian nation is about US$2,300, compared with US$47,300 in the UK, according to World Bank figures.
“Poverty in the country is standing like a demon in front of us,” Hosabale said, days before the Dussehra festival celebrated as the victory of good over evil, when Hindus burn effigies of the Demon King. “It is important that we slay this demon.”