“Modi’s Highways Can’t Hide Job Crisis: Rising Inequality Shapes India’s Election”

By Hannah Ellis-Petersen and Aakash Hassan in Maharashtra

As India’s election approaches, rising inequality is a significant issue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has built impressive highways and infrastructure, but many Indians are still struggling to find jobs.

Wealthy Elite vs. Jobless Masses

India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, recently hosted a lavish pre-wedding party for his son, spending $150 million. This event highlights the growing number of billionaires in India. Last year, there were 200 Indians on the Forbes billionaires list, and Mumbai is now Asia’s “billionaire capital” behind London and New York.

Economic Growth or Illusion?

Modi’s government claims that India is the world’s fastest-growing economy, with a GDP growth of 7.6% in 2023. Economist Surjit Bhalla says Modi has “eliminated extreme poverty.” However, many experts argue that this growth mainly benefits the wealthy, increasing inequality. According to a World Inequality Lab report, India’s top 1% now own more than 40% of the country’s wealth.

The Reality of Unemployment

Unemployment is a major concern. A survey by Lokniti found that over 60% of people say it’s harder to find a job. Economist Ashoka Mody criticizes the government’s growth figures, calling them misleading.

In rural areas like Melghat, Maharashtra, people like Ranjanee Ramcharan Bethekar struggle to survive. Bethekar, who earns just £2 a day, relies on government “freebies” like 25kg of free rice and wheat monthly. Despite welfare programs, these are often insufficient.

Promises vs. Reality

Modi’s welfare schemes, like building toilets and providing drinking water, are part of his re-election campaign. However, many promises remain unfulfilled. Economist Reetika Khera says Modi takes credit for pre-existing schemes and exaggerates their impact.

Education Without Jobs

Many educated Indians can’t find jobs. In Waifad, Maharashtra, young men with degrees are forced to return to farming due to the lack of opportunities. Chetan Mahualkar, with a bachelor’s degree, and Mahadev Uike, with a master’s in mathematics, both struggle to find work. Despite Modi’s promises of job creation, skepticism remains high.

A Call for Change

As Modi campaigns for a third term, the disparity between India’s wealthy elite and the struggling masses could impact his popularity. Many young people, frustrated with the lack of job opportunities, are looking for change.

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