Glimmers of hope come instead from young Indian entrepreneurs, who have created hundreds of firms and more than 40 “unicorns” – privately held start-ups valued at more than US$1 billion – in the last year.
Meanwhile, the gig economy currently employs about 8 million Indians, though many are underpaid and overworked.
The World Bank predicts that India’s GDP will increase by 8.3 per cent in the current fiscal year ending in March, and by 8.7 per cent in the following 12 months, making it the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
But, after eight years of Modi’s rule, the growth rate will be flattered by a lower base than even pessimists expected.
DOMESTIC UNREST ONLY FORESTALLED
So far, Modi’s government has forestalled serious domestic unrest through a combination of small-scale welfare programmes, especially in rural areas, and polarising rhetoric targeting India’s minorities, particularly its Muslim population, in order to consolidate support among the Hindu majority.
That such tactics may divide the country and derail its long-term progress does not seem to trouble Modi greatly.
But unless the economy returns to growth rates of 9 per cent or more, India risks creating a mass of young, poorly educated, unemployed, and angry people – the classic formula for social and political unrest.
If the government’s economic incompetence continues, hopes of a demographic dividend may turn into a nightmare.
Shashi Tharoor, a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and a former Indian Minister of State for External Affairs and Minister of State for Human Resource Development, is an MP for the Indian National Congress. PROJECT SYNDICATE