Mr Narendra Modi’s 2013 promise that if voted to power, the BJP would “provide one crore jobs” was surely indicative of his discerning grasp of the anxieties of India’s army of unemployed youth with little save the right to the ballot box; a vulnerable vote-bank that could be profitably tapped.
That he did so by successfully addressing what he called ‘65 per cent of the Indian population, below the age of 35, struggling with unemployment’, was evident in the youth vote that was instrumental in bringing his party to power and him to prime ministership. On April 26 this year, four years after assuming power, there was much pride in the pioneering Monthly Payroll Data released by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation, Employees’ State Insurance Corporation and the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.
Like much that has been different between propaganda and bitter ground realities, the data claims that the government’s efforts at job creation and formalisation of the economy were bearing results even though reports from the grassroots, especially post-demonetisation, suggest quite the opposite, vis-à-vis the actual loss of jobs and the abysmal quality of jobs.
Thus, the crores of new jobs story needs to be examined alongside the September 2018 United Nations Human Development Report emphasizing that even of the employed 77.5 per cent are under vulnerable employment; considerably higher than the global average of 42.5 per cent. Worse, were India to be ranked on this metrics (51.9 per cent employment to population ratio), it would be at the bottom of the rung ~ 180 among 189 countries.
It is nobody’s case that unemployment is the current government’s creation; its deviant behaviour lies in exacerbating the state of joblessness ~ virtually disempowering the small and medium enterprises with its ill-planned and executed Goods and Services Tax legislation that hit their already floundering positions ~ and covering it up with data that is hard to sustain. The Azim Premji University’s Centre for Sustainable Employment’s very credible report suggests that the unemployment rate is the highest in two decades.
Probably the worst contribution of the government has been the disbanding of the farm economy by speeding up the process of reducing the land-owning farmer to landless labour and then driving him out into the inglorious life of a construction worker in an unfamiliar land. For the Prime Minister to then stand in Parliament and announce about how various professions are generating employment is even belittling his own intelligence. To believe that the country is naïve enough to be taken in by this assumed employment story is surely sheer fatuousness.