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The widespread anger that has flared up across the country has also occasioned a focus of attention on an issue hushed up for long: unemployment. The anti-Agnipath scheme agitation gives the message that addressing the burning problem of unemployment brooks no more delay. In the very first month of this year, an inkling of the suppressed rage against the make-believe indulged in by frenzied politics was visible. There were 35,000 clerical posts in Indian Railways for which 12 lakh candidates had applied. In order to reduce the number of competing candidates, the government abruptly raised the basic qualification. And that spurred the so eliminated youth to take to the streets. In the city of Gaya, Bihar, about a thousand people set railway coaches lying idle on fire. The protests spread to other places too. In a country where nearly half a crore of youth come out of the universities with degrees which make them eligible for jobs, recruitment has been suspended for years. In 2014, the Modi government came to power with the promise that by 2022 at least ten crore new jobs would be created. Now, when that promised year has arrived, the situation is that far from new jobs being created, even the existing vacancies are lying unfilled and the army of unemployed is swelling. According to the figures presented to the parliament by the Central Ministry of Personnel Affairs ministry in February this year, eight lakh posts are vacant in the non-military departments of government service. Only 78,000 appointments were made. Although all stages of tests were over for recruitment to the forces, the crucial step of appointment is not being issued. No wonder, the apology for appointments in the form of the newly declared 'Agnipath' is incurring the wrath of the youth. The good news the prime minister gave to the unemployed just before that was that within one and a half years, ten lakh people would be given jobs.

The issue is not only of ten crore getting reduced to ten lakh. The promise then was about creating new jobs. What happens now, and is being boasted about, is giving appointments to already existing posts, which had been lying unfilled for years - without creating any new jobs. It has also been indicated that most vacancies would be in the railways, armed forces and GST department. But later it turned out that instead of permanent recruitment in these sectors, there would be only contract appointments. The Railways has already started privatisation. If even in military service, known for its permanent jobs and service-pension security regime, temporary appointments are going to be the rule, how are we going to solve unemployment? The amendments in the Agnipath scheme, or even the Agnipath scheme itself, will not touch even the tip of the issue. Unless unemployment comes on the top of the government agenda, and urgent steps taken to solve it, the consequence would be not merely youth anger. The very advantage of the much-made of Indian 'demographic dividend' will be lost.

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy observes that India has crossed the stage of young generation not getting jobs and has got close to the youth getting frustrated without jobs. In last March, the employment participation rate came down to be less than that of July 2021, a period which suffered Covid-created stagnation. Even those who had employable skills and eligibility withdrew from job searches. It has also been pointed out that the government figures, which show less unemployment as a result of this shying away from job-hunting, is prepared without factoring in this element. It is estimated that about 1.75 crore candidates shy away from job-search despite having qualifications. This condition, which the World Economic Forum describes as 'youth disillusionment', is a threat to India's economic stability.

Ever since the inauguration of the government which raised the hope that by 2022 ten crore jobs would be created, a policy has been pursued in which the largest employer, i.e. the public sector, is being systematically weakened. In the private sector, laws enabling job security are being curtailed. Although a few schemes were introduced with names like Make in India, Start-up India and Skill India, all of them were aimed at self-employment model. Not only that, reforms like note-ban and the pandemic that followed occurred in such a way as to wreck all that. According to a study by Azim Premji University, 50 lakh jobs were lost as a result of the note-ban alone. What is necessary to solve the restlessness of the youth from now on, is a series of corrective measures, a leadership with compassion and a sense of direction. The time for hollow words is long over.

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TAGS:agnipath agniveer 2014 promise of 10 crore jobs jobs not created only vacancies filled 
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