New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to do something about this. A so-called ‘leaked’ National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) job survey a few years ago pegged the unemployment rate at a four-decade high. Political detractors were constantly directing their tirades against him and his government.
The promise of ‘Acchey Din’ in 2014 essentially revolved around jobs because the last few years of the Congress-led UPA regime saw huge joblessness.
Nevertheless, the ruling dispensation under PM Narendra Modi had other data support, and so it never conceded to those allegations. The BJP’s report card in 2019, on the eve of elections, quoted various organisations such as the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), General Provident Fund (GPF) and the National Pension Scheme and claimed that at least 15 million new jobs were created every year under the Modi government between 2014 and 2019.
Joblessness, like every year, was debated in the 2019 general elections as well, but the massive mandate from the people in favour of Modi 2.0 only showed their endorsement of the Moditva phenomenon.
Late Arun Jaitley, PM Modi’s first ‘achhey din’ Finance Minister, used to say that in the changing global scenario, there is a need to make India a knowledge-based productive society. In this, he said – three things ought to be taken up together – Education, Skill Development and then the Job Creation.
Jaitley had told a group of journalists in his usual off-the-record but very productive meetings that by March 2019, as many as 17,000 plus startups were recognised and also that Rs 17.09 crore of Mudra loans had been sanctioned as of mid-March 2019.
A BJP think tank – the New Delhi-based Public Policy Research Centre had said that 14.62 million jobs have been created in the tourism sector alone between 2015 and 2019.
Likes of Jaitley also believed that the era of looking at the government and PSUs for jobs is over, and rightly so.
He had said-“Bulk of the jobs in India are created by SMEs, by the micro industries, by self-employment. Gone are the days where only the government sector created jobs in the government or the organised sector created jobs, and therefore, you have to have a skilling campaign.”
Of course, there was a reasonable argument that when the economy grows, and he said, “you will have jobs in the structural sector, you will have an expansion even of the small and medium scales.”
But there were ‘challenging’ times as well. A strong argument was built up that when demonetisation of high-value currency notes was announced in November 2016, many SMEs were folded, and hundreds of people were rendered jobless.
Some of the conclusions were possibly hyped by opposition parties and analysed wrongly by a few select known Modi baiter English and web media outlets.
I travelled to parts of Uttar Pradesh in early 2017, just on the eve of elections to the state assembly.
In some places, people did complain about losing out jobs due to the note ban, but the refrain was in many places being things were being “cleaned”.
The Benami transactions vanished, and so, even as there were complaints from ‘vested interest’, people did not relate a note ban to joblessness.
This is one reason electoral politics in Uttar Pradesh changed in favour of the BJP repeatedly since 2014 in parliamentary polls and twice in more concrete terms in two assembly polls in 2017 and 2022.
The Union Finance ministry data claims that at least 5 per cent of Mudra borrowers from general OBC categories cornered over 40 per cent of total loan amounts sanctioned.
It was also stated that the average ‘size of loans’ given to borrowers belonging to the general and OBC categories was Rs 4.2 lakh.
Of the 60 per cent of loans sanctioned, nearly 95 per cent of the borrowers were women and SCs/STs.
It was reported around 2020 that Mudra has tried to step in to bridge gaps by providing collateral-free loans under three categories — Shishu (loans up to Rs 50,000), Kishor (loans between Rs 50,000 and Rs 5 lakh) and Tarun (loans between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 10 lakh).
The government estimates that most enterprises are run by people from backward castes, economically weaker section societies and women and perhaps also have access to only informal sources of credit. However, the cry outside in political rallies about joblessness is not completely true.
The National Sample Survey Office data claimed there were nearly 6-6.5 crore small and medium enterprises employing more than 12-13 crore people. This might have gone up in recent times despite the Covid crisis.
Moreover, a majority of them are self-owned and self-run.
The moot point is that the nature of jobs has changed in India. Hence, there is still a need for changes in job culture. Work from home is a new phenomenon, and ‘new India’ has adjusted to it.
The new announcement by the Prime Minister on June 14, 2022, for government jobs – and that in numbers staggeringly high of 10 lakh means – things will change.
Certain things have already changed on the ground, and the changes will be felt in perception as well.