As Joblessness Grows, People Question Modi Government’s Policies
MODI government’s single biggest failure – betrayal is a better word for it – is on the jobs front. Two years ago Modi was voted to power because he promised again and again in his campaign speeches that the days of joblessness are going to be over soon, “achche din” (good times) are coming. In a country which has been reeling under ‘jobless growth’ for the past several years, and ever increasing number of people, especially youth were severely under-employed, Modi’s words were welcomed by many. Two years later the dreams are shattered and Modi is seen as a demagogue.
India adds about 1.3 crore people every year to it’s nearly 50 crore strong workforce. Increasingly, these new job seekers are young and educated. They are not satisfied with working at a pittance in fields or building roads. But in the absence of any meaningful initiative to industrialise the country, and absorb the army of unemployed, the Modi government has been making all kinds of wild claims with zero result.
So what’s happening on the jobs front? Although there is no mechanism in India for tracking changes in employment on a current basis there are several indicators that point towards a deeply worrying and explosive situation of unemployment or disguised employment. Let us look at these briefly.
1. Various measures of how the economy is doing are sinking or stagnant. According to government data, the index of industrial production (IIP) had grown by a mere 2 percent between February 2015 and February 2016. This was worse than the corresponding period in the previous year (February 2014 and February 2015) when the IIP grew by 4.8 percent. The manufacturing sector grew by just 0.7 percent in this period compared to 5.1 percent in the previous year. These data were released by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation on 12 April 2016.
Meanwhile, according to newly created data for the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – which has come under widespread criticism for fiddling around with statistics – government expenditure as a share of GDP is down, investment is down, exports are down and imports are down. What does this mean? It means that govt. spending which provides relief and buying power to the people has declined, there is small investment and global trade (what Modi wants in his Make in India) is declining. In other words, there is no substantial basis for more jobs to be created. Even agriculture, which is carrying the burden of two thirds of India’s people, is growing at a minuscule 1.1 percent - but that is in the second successive drought year.
The government also brings out production data on eight core industries – crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, steel, coal, cement, fertilisers and electricity. These are big employers and contribute to about 38 percent of total industrial production. As per data up to March 2016, crude oil, natural gas and steel production declined in the last one year while the others grew by 4-6 percent with only fertilisers growing by a healthy 11.3 percent. So again – no great increase in jobs because if production is declining or growing marginally then where is the chance of more people being employed.
2. Now take a look at another measure of employment – this time in the rural areas. The MGNREGS provides partial relief for joblessness and low incomes in rural areas. With an average of 45 days of hard manual labourwork in a year at an average wage of Rs140 per day, it is hardly an ideal job. But in 2015-16, a record 8.4 crore persons applied for work in the scheme across the country. This is an all-time high for the scheme which started in 2009. It is as clear an indication of the desperate search for jobs in the countryside as any. It should be noted that 1.2 crore applicants (about 14 percent) were turned back and not given any work – not even one day’s worth.
3. The situation in some of the more labour intensive industries is also dire as revealed by a survey conducted by the Labour Bureau. Every three months, they survey eight industries to find out how many jobs have been added or scrapped. The eight industries are: textile, leather, metals, automobiles, gems and jewelry, transport, ITES/BPO and handloom/powerloom. The latest survey result, released in March 2016, covered July to September, 2015. If one looks at all the successive quarterly reports, it is clear that the 15 months after the Modi Sarkar took over, that is, between July 2014 and October 2015 sawjust 4.3 lakh jobs added, one of the lowest since 2009. Of the jobs added, the bulk have accrued to the IT enabled services and BPO sector while handloom/powerloom, transport, gems & jewelry, and leather have seen loss of jobs.
From this brief survey it is clear that despite Modi personally travelling all over the globe begging industrialists and investors to ‘Make in India’ and selling India as a place where cheap labour and peaceful atmosphere will be available nothing much has happened. As far as our Indian industrialists and investors are concerned, the extent of their own sickness is evident from the staggering amount of bad loans that they have digested. In September 2015, banks were reporting Rs.3.4 lakh crore worth of bad loans (called non-productive assets or NPAs). Most of this has been lent to various private companies, supposedly to set up industrial plants or build infrastructure. But nothing has happened and this huge amount, belonging to the public, has gone up in smoke. And so have the jobs that would have come with new investments. This is Modi government’s gift to the people.