MUMBAI: Consumer spending in India has slumped for the first time in four decades, a leading business daily reported on Friday, bringing more bad news for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he struggles to revive a stuttering economy.

Consumer demand in India’s villages fell 8.8 per cent between July 2017 and June 2018, compared with 2011-12, the Business Stan­dard reported, using unpublished National Statistical Office (NSO) data.

Two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion population lives in rural areas, making it a key economic driver. But spending on food, education and clothing declined, with demand for essential items such as cereals plunging 20pc, the newspaper said.

Although urban consumption rose by 2pc, overall per capita monthly spending in the country slipped 3.7pc -- the first time it has fallen since 1972-73, the business daily said.

The report should have been released in June, but was pushed back because of its “adverse” findings, the Business Standard said, citing sources familiar with the matter.

A government official told AFP the report was not finished.

“The NSO report is still under processing and not validated, and many officials are not privy to the data,” said A. K. Mishra of the Ministry of Statistics.

The data “can only be confirmed once the ministry publishes the report”, Mishra added.

If the findings are confirmed, it would ring yet another alarm bell over Asia’s third-largest economy, which has endured five consecutive quarters of slowing growth.

In January, the Business Standard reported that unemployment had surged to a four-decade high during Modi’s first term in power, citing unpublished government data.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2019