New Delhi: On the occasion of Narendra Modi’s 70th birthday, Twitter users took upon themselves to remind the prime minister of the growing joblessness and acute economic crisis that the country is facing.
Several individuals and political parties simultaneously launched a social media campaign and the day was soon called “National Unemployment Day” on social media. Hashtags like ‘#17Sept17Hrs17Minutes’, ‘#राष्ट्रीयबेरोजगारदिवस’ and ‘#NationalUnemploymentDay’ have been trending on Twitter since morning. These hashtags are part of a protest campaign against the government’s failure to provide employment.
At the time of publishing, the hashtag #राष्ट्रीय_बेरोजगारी_दिवस (or national unemployment day) had over 1.68 million tweets.
The unemployment rate in India has been steadily decelerating and there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people losing jobs in the past quarter. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), since the lockdown was imposed in March, there have been significant job losses across the country, with the overall unemployment rate hitting over 23% in the last week of March 2020. There has been a recovery in recent months, but the unemployment remains higher than the pre-lockdown levels.
The organisation’s recent estimate has shown that the employment situation worsened from the beginning of March 2020, before the lockdown was put in place, and then rapidly spiked in the last week of the month and the first week of April 2020. The downward trend has since continued. The National Statistical Office (NSO) report has also indicated that India’s April-June quarter GDP contracted by 23.9%, the first contraction in more than 40 years.
The angst could be sensed in the memes and messaged that began to pour on Twitter since early September 17.
— Deepak Khatri (@Deepakkhatri812) September 17, 2020
— Juhie Singh (@juhiesingh) September 17, 2020
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too joined in and hit out at the Centre over the growing rate of unemployment in India amid the economic crisis. “Massive unemployment has pushed the youth of this country to call today #NationalUnemploymentDay. Employment is dignity. For how long will the Govt deny it?” Gandhi tweeted.
In his tweet, Gandhi tagged a Hindi news report on how over 1 crore Indians are seeking jobs while only 1.77 lakh jobs are currently available across states.
यही कारण है कि देश का युवा आज #राष्ट्रीय_बेरोजगारी_दिवस मनाने पर मजबूर है।
रोज़गार सम्मान है।
सरकार कब तक ये सम्मान देने से पीछे हटेगी?
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) September 17, 2020
But Modi supporters across India continued to celebrate his birthday with much fanfare.
In some places, the celebration took a bizarre turn with party members comparing Modi to the Hindu mythological figures. In Maharashtra, BJP spokesperson Avadhut Wagh compared Modi to Hindu God Vishnu’s 11th incarnation. “Hon PM @narendramodi Ji is the 11th #Avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu (sic),” state BJP Wagh tweeted.
Such comparisons are not new. In the past too, party leaders have compared Modi with Vishnu’s mythological incarnation called Kalki Avatar. Three years ago, the party’s Manipur leader Laishram Jatra Singh had released a book titled Kalki Avatar and Narendra Modi.