NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar denies unemployment high, says data not verifiable

Rahul Gandhi President of the Indian National Congress

Rahul Gandhi President of the Indian National Congress

This is the same stance the government adopted when GDP back-series data was released by a sub-committee of the National Statistical Commission (NSC) previous year.

Responding to the latest development ahead of the interim Budget, due to be presented on Friday, February 1, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar clarified that India could not have witnessed 7% growth if unemployment had been on the surge. He said there was a well laid out procedure for approving NSSO reports and surveys. That was the highest since 1972/73, the period for which the data are comparable, the newspaper reported, citing documents it had reviewed. To compare, the unemployment rate in the country had gone down to 2.2% in 2011-12, according to NSSO data.

"The feeling that we are trying to hide something is incorrect", NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant added.

The assessment by the National Sample Survey Office conducted July 2017-June 2018, showed the unemployment rate stood at 6.1 per cent, the highest since 1972-73, according to the report published by the newspaper.

The informal sector employs more than 90% of the country's workforce, and has witnessed a decline in available work and wages in the last two years, said Chandan Kumar, coordinator of the Working People's Charter, an alliance of informal workers' groups and unions.

Last year, the government had adopted a similar tone and completely disregarded a report of a sub-committee of the NSC headed by N.R. Bhanumurthy, a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, saying the methodology for calculation of the back-series had not been finalised. And critics say the government's claims of economic success have sounded increasingly hollow.

After the chaotic launch of a national sales tax in July 2017, hundreds of thousands have lost jobs in small businesses. He also rubbished the argument that the jobs report was not released because the government wanted a quarter-on-quarter comparison.

The gloomy jobs data could be awkward for Modi's Hindu nationalist government to explain with a general election looming and opinion polls already showing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party unlikely to keep its parliamentary majority. "After demonetisation, we have seen that the labour force itself has shrunk", he said, adding that urban women, who face an unemployment rate of 27% are worst hit.

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