Indian Economy In The Doldrums: Are Govt’s Flip-Flops To Blame?

It has been an eventful August thus far. Starting from the abrogation of Article 370, the disintegration of the state of Jammu & Kashmir into two UTs, the untimely demise of former External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj, the Independence Day celebrations, Kashmir issue being discussed at an informal meeting by UNSC members, half of the country under flood’s fury and the untimely demise of former Finance & Defense Minister Shri Arun Jaitley.

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The issue that has been the talk of the town is the economic slowdown India is facing; the second such since the Global Recession, 2008. India’s economy grew by a mere 5.8% in the last quarter (Q4) of the previous financial year (FY19). The figures for the first quarter (Q1) (April-June) are not out but are estimated to be even lower than the previous one, at approx. 5.5%. Unemployment rates are worst in the last 45 years. Moody’s has slashed India’s growth forecast for 2018-19 to 6.7%, from the earlier estimate of 6.8%. The growth rate of the current financial year has been pegged at a mere 6.2%. Meanwhile, India lost its spot of the fastest-growing major economy of the world to China. India that became the 6th largest economy in the world, surpassing France, has again slipped to the 7th spot.

The sector-wise performance looks even grimmer. Auto-sector‘s sales have dropped by 18.71%, its worst performance in two decades. This has forced the sector to lay-off 15,000 employees, mainly comprising of temporary and casual workers. The sales of Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) is facing the same issue of declining sales. Sales have dropped across FMCGs sector, from biscuits to innerwear. Parle Pvt. Ltd., India’s largest biscuit manufacturing company has said, to adjust to the decline sales, the company would be forced to lay-off around 10,000 workers. The same is the case with the real estate sector.

The banking sector is reeling under many challenges; prime among them is the Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) crisis. Bad loans with the banks are to the tune of over ₹1 lakh crore; that has eroded banks’ capacity to lend. Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs) haven’t performed poorer. IL & FS and its subsidiaries have defaulted on payments, and their outstanding loans stand at about ₹1 lakh crore. Performance of Dewan Housing Finance Company (DHFL) has been exactly the same. This has left the market with a huge “liquidity crunch“. Agriculture-sector faces many challenges and for a long time. The thing with this sector is that, since it’s deeply connected with the other sectors of the rural economy, any mishap in this sector has a spillover effect on other sectors as well.

Indian economic growth has been largely bolstered by two factors: “government spending” and “private consumption”. Though the government can raise money through many sources, it has to be mindful of its spending, if it has to maintain a strict fiscal discipline. The fall in sales across segments reflects an erosion of consumers’ power to spend, i.e., a reduction in private consumption. If we look at figures of non-oil, non-gold imports, which is a clear indicator of domestic sales, it reflects that sales have contracted steeply.

Probable Solutions

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addresses a press conference announcing a slew of economic measures to boost growth (Photo by Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

To propel economic activity, the RBI has already revised its monetary policy and reduced the repo rate (the interest rate at which RBI lends, generally against G-Secs) by 110 basis points, since February this year. In the Union Budget, presented in July this year, a bank recapitalization of ₹70,000 crore was announced, to enhance credit growth in the economy.

For the short term, the government can boost fiscal stimulus by increasing its spending. But this solution has its limitation of disrupting the fiscal discipline that the government needs to maintain. Another short-term solution is GST rates cut across segments. This will propel economic activity but would lead to a reduction of the government’s revenue, which it needs for various spending.

The government needs to think of rigorous structural reforms that not only address the current crisis but prevents the same from occurring in the future. In the Union Budget, the government had provided several incentives to banks, so that they could lend more to the NBFCs. This is a tricky decision since the prime reason for the crisis—in the banking sector in particular and the economy in general—is the ill performance of the NBFC sector. Instead, steps should be taken to de-link banking and NBFCs sector, so that any problem in one of them doesn’t have a spillover effect on the other one.

Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the regulator of the financial market of India, recently eased several regulatory restrictions that will make it easier for Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) to invest in Indian markets. Similar incentives should also be provided to attract FDIs in India, which are largely leaving India’s shores.

One of the prime reasons India is facing the huge unemployment crisis is that India bypassed the manufacturing sector and directly moved on to become a service-based economy from an agriculture-based economy. To find an example of the manufacturing sector having huge potential for employment, exports and overall economic growth, one doesn’t need to look far and just needs to look at China. To do the same in India, “Make in India” should not just remain a slogan but should be promoted vigorously. “Ease of Doing Business” should be further eased, proper infrastructure should be put in place, investors should be provided with various incentives to invest, and exports should be promoted.

A requisite reform is disinvestment of government in Public Sector Units (PSUs). This should be carried out slowly and in a phased manner and not in the way being carried out today—where one PSU goes on to buy another one, and the government claims disinvestment. Also, a large amount of public land is lying idle with the government. This should be sold or leased out to create infrastructure, housing, industries, etc.; that would propel further economic activity and give considerable dividends to the economy.

Also, the form Chief Economic Advisor (CEA), Arvind Subramanian asserted that India’s method of calculating its GDP is flawed, and its GDP growth rate is overestimated by at least 2.5%. Instead of questioning him on the nationalist ground and questioning his patriotism, his claim should be researched because wrong statistics would lead to wrong policies.

Reforms should be introduced to remove the various bottlenecks affecting the economy. This will enhance economic activity, generate employment, that in turn will enhance income level, leading to an increase in private consumption, thereby leading to the much needed economic growth.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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