On Monday, U.S. President Donald J. Trump began his state visit to India after arriving in the western city of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Trump became the seventh U.S. president to visit India.
Kicking off his visit to India with a speech addressing tens of thousands of people in the Moetera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, Trump’s speech praised the Indian PM, highlighting the success of recent policies to improve the country. EurAsian Times looks into some of these claims to check the reality.
Claim 1: Trump said: “Since the turn of the century, the size of the Indian economy has grown over six times in size.”
Reality check: Measured in terms of GDP – the sum of the value of goods and services produced in the economy – President Trump is correct.
In 2000, India’s GDP was $477 billion, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). By 2019, that figure had risen to an estimated $2,940bn. That’s an increase of 6.2 times over the period 2000-2019.
The EurAsian Times has previously looked at Prime Minister Modi’s pledge to expand India’s manufacturing sector. India became the world’s fifth-largest economy in 2019, according to data from the IMF’s World Economic Outlook.
Claim 2: “In a single decade, India has lifted over 270 million people out of poverty.”
Reality check: According to a 2018 UN report, there were 271 million fewer people living below the UN-defined poverty index in 2016, compared to ten years earlier.
However, this same report notes that despite the gains in reducing poverty “364 million Indians continue to experience acute deprivations in health, nutrition, schooling and sanitation.” It also notes that about a quarter of all those defined as living in poverty are under the age of 10.
Claim 3: “Under Prime Minister Modi, for the first time, every village in India has access to electricity.”
Reality: In 2018 the Indian government announced that it had reached its target of providing every Indian village with electricity.
However, it’s important to know what this means.
The government defines a village as fully electrified if 10% of its households, as well as public places such as schools and health centres, are connected to the grid. By the time Mr Modi took office in 2014, 96% of the 600,000 villages in India had already been electrified.
Claim 4: “The pace of highway constructions has more than doubled.”
Reality: It’s true that the total length of highways increased significantly after Modi’s BJP party came to power.
The government built about 10,000km of highway in 2018-19. This is more than double the amount built in the last year of the previous Congress administration in 2013-14. The government set a similar target for this year. As of November 2019, 5,958km have been built.
Claim 5: “320 million more Indians are right now connected to the internet.”
Reality: It’s not entirely clear what internet connection refers to here. There are now more than 600m internet subscribers in India – a measure of internet use published by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.
This figure has grown enormously in recent years, surpassing the 320m figure mentioned by President Trump. However, you’re much more likely to have access to the internet if you live in a city rather than in the countryside – where most Indians live. There’s also a gender disparity.
Women are 50% less likely to use mobile internet than men, according to a 2019 study. Last year, Reality Check found that an ambitious project to establish the internet across rural India made strong progress early on, but was struggling to meet targets.
Claim 6: “600 million more people have access to basic sanitation.”
Reality: In October 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat or Clean India Mission.
The government constructed toilets for households with no access to basic sanitation facilities under this scheme. The latest figures from the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation show that more than 100 million toilets have been built.
We can’t assess the figure of 600m, but every toilet would probably be used by multiple people. In April 2018, the prime minister also declared India open-defecation free.
Reality Check has shown that rates of open defecation have fallen, although UN data indicate that the practice is still widespread.
Claim 7: “70 million more households have access to cooking fuel.”
Reality: Cooking gas was provided to poor households under a scheme launched by Prime Minister Modi in 2016.
Under this scheme, 50 million liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) connections were to be provided to families below a certain level of income, with additional financial subsidies provided to refill cylinders for three years.
According to the website of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the Indian government fulfilled its target, and more than 80 million connections have been established as of September last year. The EurAsian Times found that the success of the project has been hampered by the high cost of having cylinders refilled.