Prime Minister Narendra Modi turned 70 on Thursday and his main political opposition, the Indian National Congress party, marked the day by flooding social media with the hashtag #NationalUnemploymentDay to highlight India’s record joblessness amid its worst economic downturn in decades.
The hashtag was trending on Twitter by late afternoon with more than 2.75 million tweets, that included memes and videos of the unemployed seeking jobs. India has lost nearly 19 million salaried jobs between April and July, data shows. A strict virus lockdown implemented in late March led to the biggest contraction among major economies with gross domestic product shrinking 23.9% in the three months to June from a year earlier.
Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi have accused Modi of mishandling the economy and ignoring job creation. The federal government is yet to formally announce plans to extend its flagship rural jobs program to workers in cities left unemployed by the pandemic-induced lockdowns.
Modi’s government in May unveiled a 21 trillion-rupee ($280 billion) package to support the economy, ease access to credit for small businesses and offer cheap loans to workers and farmers to help create more jobs.
The social media campaign comes as Indian lawmakers returned to parliament this week amid infections soaring at one of the fastest paces in world. India is adding nearly 95,000 cases daily and is now the second-worst affected country after the U.S.
However, Modi’s popularity continues to remain high, according to opinion polls. Some 78% respondents found his government’s performance to be outstanding or good, the India Today ‘Mood of the Nation’ survey conducted in August showed. Only 5% of those surveyed found the government’s performance to be poor.
A spokesman for his Bharatiya Janata Party wasn’t immediately available for comment.
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