The youth is the hope of our future, goes the saying. In 2014, India's youth were instrumental in bringing Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power with a thumping majority. Many of these supporters were first-time voters, recent college graduates from all cross-sections of society.
Almost all were swayed by Modi's promise to create 2 crore jobs a year if voted to power.
This promise, much like the promise of the now forgotten 'achche din', has turned out to be a giant jumla.
Let’s look at some ground realities.
Youth played a big part in ensuring Modi's thumping victory in 2014. They are bitterly disappointed now. (Photo: PTI/file)
According to statistics released by the Labour Bureau, job creation or job growth for 2015 and 2016 (April-December) stood at 1.55 lakh and 2.31 lakh in numbers respectively. These numbers are less than 1% of the 2 crore jobs promised per year by PM Modi.
In the 2016 survey of the Labour Bureau, it was found that in most of the eight biggest employment generation sectors — textiles, leather, metals, automobiles, gems and jewellery, transport, information technology and handlooms — jobs were shrinking.
The job situation was already grim when PM Modi announced demonetisation, an ill-advised policy decision that served as the coup de grace for job growth in India.
Estimates suggest around 2 crore jobs were lost in the immediate aftermath of 'notebandi' and the shoddy roll-out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Farmers too were badly hit by demonetisation, according to a report submitted by the Union Agriculture Ministry to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance.
The impact of demonetisation on agricultural jobs has been so severe that the Centre has purportedly stopped releasing farmer suicide numbers since 2016.
In 2018, the job creation situation is especially dire.
As many as 11 million Indians lost their jobs during 2018, a report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) said. The number of employed recorded in December 2018 was at 397 million, which is 10.9 million less than the figure of 407.9 million seen a year ago at the end of December 2017.
If this was not bad enough, a report released in September 2018 by the Centre for Sustainable Employment of the Azim Premji University confirms that the rate of unemployment in India is at the highest in 20 years.
This shortage of jobs is compounded by depressed wages, with 82 per cent of men and 92 per cent of women earning less than Rs 10,000 per month.
One could perhaps have forgiven the Modi government’s dismal failure to create jobs if they had tried and failed. What is inexplicable is that the government has displayed no apparent intent to fill existing vacancies.
At least 24 lakh posts are vacant with both the central and state governments, as per the data collected from answers to a number of questions in Parliament.
Over 10 lakh vacancies for teachers in elementary and secondary schools exist at the moment. A question answered in the Lok Sabha in March 2018 citing numbers from the Bureau of Police Research & Development stated that there are 4.4 lakh vacancies in civil and district armed police. It added that an additional 90,000-odd posts are vacant in the state armed police, taking the total vacant positions in police forces to 5.4 lakh across the country.
Why is the government apparently making no attempt to fill these vacancies when India is at the cusp of one of the biggest unemployment crises since Independence?
Crores of jobs were lost in the aftermath of demonetisation and the shoddy roll-out of the GST. (Photo: Reuters/file)
In order to guarantee the ‘right to work’ for every Indian, the UPA government had enacted the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in 2005. PM Modi has been vocal about his criticism of the Act — does he not want to guarantee employment for the poor?
Earlier this month, a letter to the PM, prepared by senior activists, led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, states that despite repeated public statements by the government promising employment, the MGNREGA “is being systematically undermined”. The letter includes an analytical note on the working of the MGNREGA, which says that more than 99 per cent of MGNREGA funds have been exhausted, and no additional funds have been sanctioned.
The facts are clear. Yet, during the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha last year, PM Modi reportedly said that over 1 crore jobs were created in the country over the past year. He apparently cited EPF data to support his claims. This claim was reportedly refuted by the Chief Statistician of India, Pravin Srivastava, who said that EPFO data should be seen as a proxy for formalisation, not employment creation.
The government later admitted to a Parliamentary panel that it has no real data on the number of new jobs created since 2014. So, where did the figure above come from?
Where's this going? Reports say almost all MGNREGA funds have been exhausted, and new funds not sanctioned. (Photo: PTI/file)
The sentiment that PM Modi has failed miserably in creating jobs has been echoed even by senior BJP leaders.
In 2018, when Union minister Nitin Gadkari was asked a question on reservation in jobs, he replied: “Even if reservation is given, there are no jobs”.
While campaigning for the Rajasthan Assembly elections last year, then-CM Vasundhara Raje, when asked about the growing incidents of mob lynchings in the state, commented that ‘lynchings were a result of lack of jobs’.
The failure of this government to generate employment has been proven beyond doubt. What is very worrying is the growing evidence that there was apparently never any serious intention to create jobs in the first place.
In 2014, it was jumlas that brought the BJP to power. In 2019, it will be jobs that will lead to their undoing.