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Feast of rhetoric cannot fill stomachs

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Feast of rhetoric cannot fill stomachs
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A report released the other day by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) that studies the economic statistics and new trends in the country, should raise great concern. 

The disclosures by the agency tell us that in 2018 alone 1.10 crore people lost jobs and unemployment is increasing every day.  If in December 2017,  the number of newly employed was 404.9 million,  in December 2018,  it fell to 397 million.  Regardless differences between urban or rural areas,  unemployment is rampant.  The problem is more severe in the rural sector that forms two thirds of the country's population – 91 lakh people lost employment in this category,  whereas job losses in the urban sector was 18 lac.  Of those who turned unemployed during 2018, 22 lakh were males,  but on the female side it was four times that, i.e. 88 lac.   Among those who lost jobs during the year,  3 lakh were monthly salary earners.  Overall,  the unemployment rate in India during December shot up to 7.4 %.  When this is placed against the November average of 6.6 %,  we get a grim picture of our setback on the economic front.

That these are not abstract estimates is made clear by some other news items that came out last month.  For the 90,000 posts of drivers,  trackman etc advertised by Indian Railways,  2.80 crore candidates applied.  For the Class Four posts in West Bengal,  25 lakh youth turned up against 6,000 vacancies.  In Rajasthan government service,  for 18 vacancies of peons, 12,453 candidates showed up at the written test.  Among those who lined up for lower level jobs,  there were postgraduates,  engineers,  lawyers,  chartered accountants and similarly qualified applicants.   That is the state of affairs under the rule of a prime minister who had bragged that he would create jobs for 2 crore people each year and would contest for the next election with a record of creating employment for 10 crore youth – a pitiable status of where the prime minister 'achhe din' (good days) have landed.

As regards the investment record,  during the last quarter of 2018,  the investment rate was the lowest of Modi's tenure.  For the comparable period of 2017 (Q4) investments stood at 2.23 lac crore,  but in 2018 it nosedived to 1.15 lac crore – the lowest in 14 years.  CMEI's experts cite factors like unfavourable business climate,  low financial incentives and long wait for official clearances as the causes for long project delays which finally force investors to scrap the entire project.  In short,  all the maladies which prime minister Narendra Modi allege as the legacy from the term of the current Opposition,  are continuing today – and at a worse scale.

One of the causes for the all-India strike of today and tomorrow,  highlighted by its organizers is the unemployment rate that keeps rising each day.  They point out that even in sectors  which were expected to provide more jobs,  there is a severe shortfall;  when traditional industries face closure, IT sector also suffers from sharp downfall which make matters worse.  But the prime minister is not ready to concede any of these.  On the other hand,  when recognition dawned that the economy is in a crisis without easy resolution,  the attempt was to stifle the sources of data.  The quarterly survey conducted by the labour ministry was stalled by the prime minister last June.   The next step was to to plug the outlets of statistics,  deny everything unpalatable and present figures of one's own.    To that end, the figures of Provident Fund Organization – of 41 lac new jobs created during 8 months from September 2017 to April 2018 -   and data about self-employment loans worth at least Rs 12 crore under Mudra Scheme are paraded. 

In the same sequence,  jobs from pakoda seller to newspaper delivery boy find mention in the employment figures.   Thus figures contradicted by counter-figures,  and counter-argument for argument are used as tit-for-tat to silence detractors.   It becomes clear that other than this feast of rhetoric,  the Central government has nothing to fill the stomach of the population.  However, for the question for whom this government exists,  there came an answer with the New Year from Modi's own home-state Gujarat.  What the government did there on 2nd January, was to quell the farmer agitation against leasing agricultural land to a private firm for limestone mining in Bhavnagar.  But India being a country laid to burn on the agony of restless, unemployed youth,  things are not such as can be managed by brute force. A fact reiterated again by facts.

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