When the BJP-led NDA government invested a few crores of rupees to publicise the fact that economically speaking India was doing extraordinarily well under its aegis, opposition parties, notably the Congress and the Left, opened a sneering campaign to damn the government claim. ?India shining?? asked Opposition spokesmen, ?What is so shining about rising unemployment in the country?? There are two truths here that need to be attended to. Indian economy is indeed shining. The fact that India’sforeign exchange reserve has crossed the $100 billion mark is eloquent testimony to the claim. But it is also true that unemployment in India has also been on the rise. According to the government’sown Planning Commission, more than 40 million are registered with the employment exchanges. Population projections suggest 35 million new workers will joint the country’slabour force by 2007. According to the American journal Newsweek (March 15), ?That means India will need to create a staggering 75 million jobs over the next three years.? Can that goal be achieved? Between 1994 and 2000 India’srate of new-job growth was barely 1.07 per cent. Even more damaging, since 1997, the public sector which for years had been over-staffed has been forced to eliminate 4.5 million jobs or roughly 15 per cent of its work force. The private sector has not been of much help. So where do we go from here? On the one hand, technical and allied institutions are springing up all over the country. In Tamil Nadu alone, 252 engineering colleges are producing 77,500 engineers of uneven quality every year. They have nowhere to go. Not even the United States wants them. At a much lower level, carpenters, brick-layers, electricians and their likes are flocking to India’smajor cities like Mumbai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and similar places, looking for jobs. It is open knowledge that many of India’sjobless are concentrated in a handful of poorly-governed states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. For years West Bengal kept industrialists away because Communist-led trade unions were regularly instigating strikes to gain impossible demands. Much the same was true in Kerala where unemployment rate has gone beyond 20 per cent. In West Bengal, which has of late woken up to the irrelevance of its ideological stance, the unemployment rate is still around 15 per cent. In Europe a figure so high would have resulted in a revolution. The Indian social ethos being what it is, the country moves on with only Naxalites serving to create unrest in certain pockets. But to attribute the present state of affairs to the NDA government is plainly silly. The NDA government came to power only five years ago and it can hardly be expected to change the employment situation even in twenty-five years?let alone five years. To sneer at the NDA government is a sign of irresponsibility. The nation can do without it. There are many reasons for the uneven growth of the country’seconomy. One immediate reason is the birth rate, which is unevenly spread across the country. If the nation has to show genuine signs of across-the-board rebirth and population control, they have to be exercised in a meaningful way. With a population crossing the one billion mark and threatening to rise still further, no government can possibly do much to meet the employment demand. Ergo, the first, and major move should be to bring population growth under strict control. It may not be possible for a practising democracy like India to go the China way, which enforces married couples to have no more than one child per family, but whichever government is in power in Delhi, it has to pay attention to the burgeoning population growth. There is no other way to make India shine brighter apart from population control. Then there is the fact that approximately 60 per cent of India’spopulation or around 600 million live in the villages and not all of them earn their livelihood through farming. This partly explains the migration of rural, untrained and illiterate people to urban centres. Ways and means have to be found to find employment for the rural unemployed. Gandhiji had his own solution to village self-sufficiency. It is too late now to follow his lead, but a wise Planning Commission will concentrate on this aspect of the economy and give the subject its fullest attention. Newsweek quotes one Shirish Shanke, a principal at Mckinsey & Co as saying that China pulls 1 per cent of its people out of agriculture and puts them into construction or light manufacturing every year. There is no way India can do likewise. India has undertaken an extensive programme of road building. The six-lane quadrilateral highways are already providing employment to several millions but this activity will cease in another two decades, if not earlier. And meanwhile more millions would have joined the labour force. It is common knowledge that over 54 per cent of India’spopulation today is between 18 and 35 years old. This is the age group of productive labour and its dreams have to be met. So far money has been put in high-tech industries, which yield more products but less employment, like in the automotive industry, which, following the lifting of curbs in the early 1990s, doubled in productivity. Labour force, it is claimed, grew by 11 per cent providing jobs for more than 10 million. But knowledgeable sources wonder whether jobs could have become more meaningful if the industry had outsourced many of its jobs to trained work force living in villages. Such a situation, it is claimed, exists in Japan. An entirely new colour can be given to Gandhiji’sconcept of village self-sufficiency by major industries outsourcing minor jobs (like making nuts and bolts) to rural areas. This is not an impossible task. What it calls for is systematic planning. Were a district to be made entirely self-sufficient in terms of its needs for textiles, pharmaceuticals, consumer products, etc., the movement of both illiterates and highly qualified from rural to urban areas could possibly be halted by job creation. Mere sneering at the NDA government does not help. Opposition parties must think big and think constructively and provide solutions to the nation’smalaise. The Congress has no solutions; neither has the vocal Left. Meanwhile, the thought that in the next three years India will need to create 75 million jobs to satisfy the surging demand is daunting. It is a challenge not just for the next government that will assume power in Delhi but also for the entire nation. It is the welfare of the entire country that we have on hand, not the aspirations of any political party or group of parties. In this the services of the media?print, radio and television?must be garnered extensively. And this task must be taken on hand on a war footing. We must end unemployment before unemployment ends us. It is the nation’sfuture security and prosperity that is at issue?not the prospect of any one party coming to power. In Kerala unemployment rate has gone beyond 20 per cent. In West Bengal, which has of late woken up to the irrelevance of its ideological stance, the unemployment rate is still around 15 per cent. In Europe a figure so high would have resulted in a revolution.