Political slugfest erupts over ‘leaked’ job data

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The NITI Aayog on Thursday said that a yet-to-be-released report, which claims that the rate of unemployment is at a 45-year high in 2017-18, is not verified.

Earlier, Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also alleged that the unemployment rate is at a 45-year high and said this was the reason why the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) report on jobs was withheld.

In the wake of the release of unemployment figures by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said the data was not released by the government as it is still being processed.

According to the NSSO report, joblessness was higher at 7.8 per cent in urban areas and 5.3 per cent in rural areas. The unemployment rate was 2.2 per cent in 2011-12.

In July 2018, Modi said that the problem was not a lack of jobs, but rather, lack of data on jobs.

But the government think-tank NITI Aayog said the report was only a draft and that a final version would be published in March.

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"You can't be growing annually at 7.2 percent and saying that there are no jobs being created in the economy", NITI Aayog Chief Executive Amitabh Kant said at a press conference.

Modi came to power in 2014 promising to galvanise the economy and boost employment prospects for the millions of young Indians entering the job market each year.

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition Congress party who the polls show is closing in on Modi's lead in the election due by May, said the job report showed "a national disaster". "The confusion is being created by those using a job report which has been leaked, and it has not been finalised", he added.

The damning revelation comes just a day after a controversy erupted over the central government's refusal to release the report on unemployment despite the National Statistical Commission giving its approval in December previous year. It was meant to increase the share of domestic manufacturing from 17 percent of gross domestic product to about 25 percent and create jobs for an estimated 1.2 million youth entering the market.

The Niti Aayog is of the view that high growth can not take place without a rise in employment as there has been a decline in private investment and no significant improvement in productivity. "However, we also need to create jobs for people exiting low-productive jobs", he said.

Earlier, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) had stated that 1.5 million jobs were lost just in the first four months of 2017 - immediately after demonetisation of old 500 and 1000 rupee notes. "The results of the PLFS will be brought out in the form of an Annual Key Report, which would contain detailed tables for both rural and urban sectors, and quarterly bulletins, which would contain, for the urban sector, estimates of the changes in key labour force parameters", according to the NSSO website. While Mohanan was the Acting Chairperson before he resigned, Meenakshi quit as the Member NSC.