India's GDP growth rate fell under expectations at 4.7 per cent in October-December on plunging output in the manufacturing sector, making achievement of 4.9 per cent GDP expansion in 2013-14 a tough task.
Meanwhile, growth in the key infrastructure sector slowed to 1.6 per cent in January from 8.3 per cent in the same month a year ago due to poor output of coal, petroleum refinery products and natural gas, adding to the concerns of industry.
Worried over 1.9 per cent contraction in the output of the manufacturing sector, India Inc stepped up its demand for a rate cut by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to boost demand and spur growth.
The manufacturing sector had grown 2.5 per cent a year ago, according to official data released here by the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
The manufacturing output contracted 0.7 per cent for the first nine months of the financial year.
The country's gross domestic product (GDP) had expanded 4.8 per cent in the July-September quarter and 4.4 per cent in April-June.
Growth in the first nine months (April-December) was 4.6 per cent.
The economy must expand by 5.7 per cent in January- March to achieve estimated GDP expansion of 4.9 per cent in 2013-14.
Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council Chairman C Rangarajan hoped that growth would be strong enough in the fourth quarter to achieve 4.9 per cent mark. He termed the third quarter performance as "a little below expectation".
Expressing concerns over sub-optimal output in mining and manufacturing sectors, CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee suggested that with inflation on the wane RBI should now ease monetary policy.
On industry's demand for a rate cut, Rangarajan said: "That would depend on inflation numbers, if inflation continues to trend downwards, it will give room for RBI to cut rates."
FICCI President Sidharth Birla said that the GDP growth for the third quarter "disappoints and adds to the concerns on achieving full year target of 4.9 per cent as brought out by CSO earlier.
These numbers indicate that the slowdown is entrenched in the economy...this prolonged slowdown in growth will have serious implications for employment generation and unless the trajectory is reversed soon we could face grave social challenges."
The farm sector output expanded 3.6 per cent in the period under review compared with 0.8 per cent in the corresponding period of the previous financial year.
The services sector expanded 12.5