While Modi and his protégé Amit Shah have been gloating over creating a Congress-mukt Bharat, they, in reality, have created a job-mukt Bharat.
Each time I travel to my home state of Telangana, I come across thousands of young boys and girls full of hope to realise their dreams. I am enthused to interact with them and learn about their eagerness to finish their formal education and earn a decent livelihood to alleviate themselves and their families out of poverty.
Things were not this optimistic when we were growing up with a large section of Tel-angana reeling under the influence of Maoism. The young, back then, took up arms instead of books largely because of the lack of development in the region. However, during the two UPA terms, the roots of development started to gain ground in the state which helped the youth dream of a better future. A better life. When I heard Union minister Nitin Gadkari claiming that there are no jobs in the country, my heart went out to all those who have dared to dream in this newly formed state. In fact, my heart went out to millions of youth across the country who had voted and believed in Narendra Modi’s tall promise of 20 million jobs each year and 100 million in 5 years.
Unlike most in the BJP, Mr Gadkari had the courage to speak the truth. He remains the only one in the government who put an end to this long standing speculation that the job growth in India has hit a rock bottom. While Modi and his protégé Amit Shah have been gloating over creating a Congress-mukt Bharat, they, in reality, have created a job-mukt Bharat. A Bharat that can no longer employ millions of its young. No one in the government is raising the issue of growing unemployment as vociferously as they did in the run up to 2014 elections. It is for this lack of emphasis on job creation that has led to recent surveys revealing a horror story. According to various estimates, a total of 1.2 crore people entering the workforce each year, while the World Bank estimates are much higher.
It implies that the economy needs to create more than 10 lakh jobs each month to meet the growing requirement of employment. Data suggests that a mere 4.16 lakh jobs were created in 2017 while 1.55 lakh and 2.31 lakh found jobs in 2015 and 2016 respectively. Further, India’s top data consulting firm — Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) — claimed how the country’s labour force participation rate continues to decline at an alarming pace.
According to CMIE, the labour force participation rate fell from 46.1 per cent in 2016-17 to 43.5 per cent in 2017-18. CMIE’s latest estimates suggest that the number has plummeted to 42.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2018-19. It goes on to add that the first quarter of 2018-19 witnessed number of people employed falling to 401.9 million as against 406.2 million and 406.6 million during 2017-18 and 2016-17 respectively. These numbers are in complete contrast with the UPA tenure where a government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh managed to create 1 million jobs in 2009 alone.
Another startling claim by CMIE is about 31 million people that remain unemployed in India and that the unemployment rate increased to 6.6 per cent in February — a 2.43 percentage-point increase from 4.17 per cent in March 2017.
These figures certainly match with the reality on the ground which has reflected in several news reports — 2.8 crore people applying for 90,000 vacancies in Indian Railways and 19 lakh candidates applying for 9,500 posts of typists, stenographers and village administrative officers. What is also shocking is that among 19 lakh candidates were 992 Ph.Ds and 23,000 M.Phils.
Similarly, in Rajasthan, 129 engineers, 23 lawyers, one chartered accountant and 393 post graduates were interviewed for jobs of peons. Out of the 18 selected, included a 30-year-old man, who happens to be the son of BJP MLA. These are nothing but horror stories from the hinterland that reflect on all that is wrong with the Modi government. Yet PM Modi and his government fief ignorance over these numbers and continue to throw numbers that are full of contradictions. Consider this, while the CMIE claimed that only 1.43 million jobs were added in 2017, a member of Mr Modi’s advisory council and noted analyst Mr Surjit Bhalla put the estimates at 15 million. Even the government’s own Niti Aayog didn’t go overboard with its predictions and claimed 7 million job creations during 2017.
Mr Bhalla’s estimates were based on Employee Provident Fund Account which claimed that about 70 lakh new accounts were opened, of which 40 lakh included those under 25. His claims were ridiculed by one and all considering many of these new accounts would have belonged to those who already had jobs but had now come under a formal structure after the twin disasters of demonetisation and GST. CMIE claims that due to the 2016 note ban exercise as many as 1.5 million jobs were lost in the first two months of 2017.
In these circumstances, when the economy is registering a negative job growth rate, the youth are seen resorting to expressing their anger on the streets. Surprisingly, it was a BJP chief minister who ackno-wledged this. In an interview to News 18, Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhra Raje blamed joblessness for increasing instances of lynching across the country.
In her statement, she said, “This is the problem that stems out of population explosions. People wanting jobs, people are frustrated that they are not being able to get jobs. There is frustration which is spreading across communities and people… It’s not something that is coming out of the state. It’s coming out of the people’s angry reaction to their circumstances.”
No one would have put it as clearly as Ms Raje did. And, since Modi government has failed to create any jobs, it is trying to use this anger and frustration to build hatred against the minorities. The ruling dispensation is trying to divert the attention and anger of the young by creating these communal narratives that is certain to rob India of all the hard work that the previous generations have achieved.
The BJP and RSS’ vision of India is skewed and full of hatred. It seeks to pit one community against each other while trying to hide its failures of taking this nation forward. The vision of BJP and RSS can’t be the vision of this great nation that was built on certain ethos of principles, secularism and overall growth of all its citizens.
The youth of India should reject this politics of communalisation and instead seek answers from the government over its promises, policies and programmes. The youth should not shy away from asking the government for its vision of India. As a young nation, we need to have policies to bring the poor out of poverty and not to help the crony capitalists grow richer.
The youth of today aspires to reach greater heights and achieve the unachievable, which reflects in how Indians occupy top posts in multiple corporate giants across the world. This happened because Congress had a vision to help the young achieve their dreams and not to vent out their anger and frustration at other communities as expressed by Ms Raje.
Instead of addressing the issue, Mr Modi wants the youth of this country to open pakoda shops while his chief minister suggested opening a paan shop or a buying a cow. What Mr Modi and his ministers don’t realise that the youth of today just don’t want to earn a meagre living to let ends meet.
They have grown up on stories of Narayan Murthy and several others who rose from the bottom of the pyramid to become millionaires and billionaires. This is a question that the youth of India should ponder over. Do they want a government that cares for their future and growth or the one that wants them to lynch innocents to express their anger over their failures?
Meanwhile, I am still contemplating on how to respond to the hundreds of young people in my state when they ask about their job prospects in the state and country. Opening a pakoda or paan shop would certainly not be my answer.
The writer is associated with the Indian National Congress and is a former chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Electronics Corporation