Indian opposition party holds street protest demanding jobs

NEW DELHI (AP) — Youth members of India’s main opposition Congress party clashed with police during a street protest Friday demanding jobs as the country’s economy recovers from a coronavirus lockdown last year that triggered massive unemployment.

They also urged people not to celebrate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 71st birthday on Friday.

About 150 Congress supporters marching behind a large banner reading “Government, Give Jobs to Youth” tried to jump police barricades blocking them from marching to government offices in New Delhi.

Police seized some protesters and took them away in a bus. They were expected to be released later Friday.

The Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy, a private think tank, says in August 2021, India’s unemployment rate stood at 8.32% and youth unemployment was around 27.7%.

J.P. Nadda, the president of Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, described Modi as a reformer who cares about social issues.

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said 10 million people will receive COVID-19 vaccinations on Friday as part of Modi’s birthday celebrations.

A massive 23.9% economic contraction in the April-June quarter last year due to the pandemic lockdown caused millions of people to lose their jobs in small and medium-size businesses and pushed the country into a recession.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said a strong economic recovery is taking root, citing an increase in tax collections for goods and services.

The International Monetary Fund has predicted 9.5% economic growth for India in the current financial year.

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