Ahead of Election, Indian Leaders Are Accused of Suppressing 45-Year Unemployment High

Ahead of Election, Indian Leaders Are Accused of Suppressing 45-Year Unemployment High

NEW DELHI — When voters swept Prime Minister Narendra Modi into power five years ago, it was in no small part because of his vows to create millions of jobs and vault India into an era of prosperity.

But now, just months before the next general election, Mr. Modi is facing a potentially troublesome challenge on the jobs promises that may be partly of his own making.

His government was accused on Thursday of suppressing an official report on the national unemployment rate that apparently showed it had reached a 45-year high in 2017.

The Business Standard, a respected Indian financial newspaper, published leaked findings from the unemployment report, which is based on a survey and produced by the National Sample Survey Office, a government agency.

“NoMo Jobs!” Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Indian National Congress, an opposition party, wrote on Twitter, adding that the “leaked job creation report card reveals a National Disaster.”

The leaked report compounded other recent signs of employment distress in India, including data from the All India Manufacturers’ Organization in December that said 3.5 million jobs had been lost since 2016.

A far more dire study, released Jan. 9 by the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy, a business information company in Mumbai, said 11 million jobs were lost in 2018 alone.

“This survey focuses mostly, I think, on the organized sector,” Raj Kumar Singh, the energy minister, told the independent broadcaster NDTV. “Our economy is growing at an unprecedented rate. That economy can’t grow without economic activity actually happening.’’

India’s economy has been growing at an annual rate of around 7 percent for several years, among the fastest of any major economy.

According to the Times Now-VMR poll, Mr. Modi remains the most trusted leader in the country. When asked who had the better plans for India, 44.4 percent of respondents chose Mr. Modi, compared with 29.9 percent for Mr. Gandhi.

The previous government, led by Mr. Gandhi’s party, was also uncomfortable releasing unemployment figures, which have always been a politically delicate issue. Still, said Himanshu, the economist, Mr. Modi and his aides seemed even more sensitive about them.

“They are trying to control the statistical system, and the government is obviously apprehensive of the data,” he said.

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