Pakoda Jobs

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi has, in an interview last week with a private television channel, claimed that someone who opens a pakoda shop in the street is to be considered as employed.  Further, his earning of Rs 200 per day is not reflected in any book of accounts. He said, “The truth is massive number of people are being employed”. 

So, now we have it from the prime minister himself that massive employment has been created by people selling goods on streets. These are the “self-employed”.  This is a pathetic claim for Modi to make.  It only exposes the abject failure of the Modi government to generate employment and create new jobs on any meaningful scale in the past three and a half years.  Remember that at the time of elections, Modi had promised the creation of two crore jobs a year.

What is the type of employment that Modi is referring to? According to `Report on Employment-Unemployment Survey 2015-16’, nearly half of India’s workforce (46.6 per cent) is self-employed.  Of these, 41 per cent make up to Rs 60,000 a year, i.e., only Rs 5,000 a month.  So this is employment which brings in little income.

As we all know, people become “self-employed” because there is no regular employment, or, jobs available in the formal sector.  Thanks to the neo-liberal policies, there is a type of economic growth which does not produce jobs, except low-paid jobs in the informal sector and mainly contractual jobs in the organised sector.

The economic slowdown and demonetisation have killed off-job prospects all round. Shrinking opportunities for rural employment have also aggravated the situation.

It is in such a scenario that Modi has made this fantastic claim that selling pakoda on the street is employment.  It is a cruel joke on the retrenched worker from a factory, who has to sell vegetables on a cart to desperately earn some money and on the huge number of rural poor who come flocking to the cities to earn a living and join the flood of “self-employed” on the street to sell whatever goods they can gather to sell.  All these people are actually underemployed and struggling to live above the subsistence level. 

The government has made much of the Mudra scheme to provide loans for the self-employed.  Actually 90 per cent of the beneficiaries have received loans of under Rs 50,000, hardly an investment to provide employment of any value. 

The Modi slogan of “Make in India” was meant to boost the manufacturing sector and create quality employment. However, the programme has failed to take off.  Manufacturing growth continues to lag behind and the past year has seen many companies resorting to retrenchment of jobs in industry.

So, now we have been forewarned.  What the prime minister promises is more “pakoda jobs” for the millions of new entrants to the job market. 

(January 31, 2018)

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