Are the poor better off than in 2014?

On BJP’s Foundation Day on Thursday, the Prime Minister tweeted to say BJP would continue to work for the poor. But, are the poor really better off today than they were in 2014?

Photo by Pramod Pushkarna
Photo by Pramod Pushkarna

NH Web Desk

On Thursday morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a number of messages on the foundation day of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which came into being on this day in 1980.

But how does his Government fare? Here is a reality check.

Farmers’ suicide still high: NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) data indicates that farmer suicides have risen in the Modi regime by 42%. The Indian Express reported that 80% farmer-suicides are due to loans secured from banks, not moneylenders. According to the NCRB data in 2015 over 3,000 farmers committed suicide while in 2014 the number was put at 1,163.

Inflation: Inflation has remained high during the last three years and affected the poor/lower middle income group the hardest. A report published in The Economic Times said that price rise broke all records in 2016. Though it seems more stable this year, prices of essential commodities remain higher than in 2014. Pulses are still sold at around ₹100 while milk prices went up in January.

Rail fare increased: Rail fare has gone up both directly and indirectly. Within three months of assuming power, the Modi government had raised fares and freight rates. According to media reports, Railways had increased passenger fares by 14.3% and freight rates by 6.5% in June 2014. In September 2016 fares for premium trains such as Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi were also increased. The price of platform tickets too went up.

Subsidy on education decreased: Through a series of notifications and guidelines the number of research scholarships, fellowships etc have been reduced along with seats for MPhil and PhD programmes. In JNU alone, the intake for integrated MPhil and PhD courses have come down to 102 from 970 last year. The worst affected by the decision are the poor and the disadvantaged sections from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes etc.

Price of petroleum products remain high: While BJP was critical of high petroleum prices while it was in the opposition, in the last three years since it came to power at the Centre, petroleum prices have remained high despite relatively lower international price of crude. Crude oil was at $107 per barrel in May 2014, when the price of one litre of petrol was ₹71.41. Since then, the price of crude has gone down to $54.55 per litre in international market but in India a litre of petrol was still being sold at ₹70.60.

Demonetisation: Two and a half million industrial workers are estimated to have lost their jobs in the first 50 days of demonetisation that was announced on November 8, 2016. While workers in the unorganised and informal sectors were the worst hit, All India Manufacturers’ Organisation (AIMO) estimated a 35% cut in employment and 45% revenue loss till March 2017.

Funding to universities, colleges reduced: Known for its world class research in social sciences and quality education Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) faced massive fund cut by UGC. Strength of the faculty in Women's Studies, Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy and Nodal Centre for Human Rights Education has been reduced. The worst affected again will be students from poorer families.

Promise on MSP (Minimum Support Price) not fulfilled: BJP had promised 50% extra over cost of production as Minimum Support Price (MSP). It was suggested by the Swaminathan Commission, which BJP included in its manifesto in 2014. But the promise is yet to be fulfilled.

Job creation at the lowest level: The Prime Minister had promised to create two crore new jobs every year but unemployment is now highest in the last five years.

MGNREGA hit by low funding and Aadhaar hurdle: The innovative rural employment guarantee scheme is facing fund cuts/ delay in payment in many states. With Aadhaar being made compulsory for availing benefits of the scheme, many of the poor face exclusion.

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