The Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto for 2014 general elections has used the word ‘job’ as many as 26 times in the context of creating employment. Applying the balm of ‘assured job’ to the unemployed, the manifesto stated: “The country has been dragged through 10 years of jobless growth by the Congress-led UPA Government…. Under the broader economic revival, BJP will accord high priority to job creation and opportunities for entrepreneurship.” A few months before the release of the manifesto, Mr Narendra Modi, then campaigning as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the party, at a rally in Agra, had said that the BJP would create 10 million jobs every year. He elaborated the target thus: “If BJP comes to power, it will provide one crore jobs which the UPA government could not do despite announcing it before the last Lok Sabha polls.”
Close to four years down the line, the party and its government have come to terms with the reality that their promises have remained far from fulfilment. The data prepared by the government’s own Labour Bureau show that job creation has plunged to the lowest level in eight years. This critical situation was endorsed at a meeting of 40 top economists and experts convened by the Prime Minister three weeks before the last full budget was presented. In the brainstorming session, it was noted that as many as 20 per cent of the youth in the country were unemployed and the government should target job growth as a focal area.
It is slowly dawning upon people that the assurances on creation of job are nothing but a ‘jumla’ (empty promise). The BJP got a taste of people’s disenchantment with the party in the recent Rajasthan byelections where its seats were snatched away by the Congress by huge margins. An effort is being made to deflect the issue of job creation and paint a rosy picture on a different canvas. Here comes Mr Modi’s remarks during an interview to a Hindi channel that even a vendor selling ‘pakoras’ outside an office is creating employment. The remark elicited widespread criticism from politicians and experts. Jobless youths across the spectrum have expressed their disillusionment with the remark by the head of the government. The unemployed people are not willing to celebrate earning a couple of hundred rupees by becoming vendors on pavements.
However, Mr Modi’s comments should be viewed in the background of the much-touted Mudra scheme, launched in 2015. This has led to disbursal of loans reportedly to the tune of Rs. 3 lakh crore leading to generation of five crore jobs in the last two years. But here lies the catch. Most of the beneficiaries have received loans under Rs 50,000, and the employment opportunities created by such low capital investment can hardly be of high value. Moreover, this is not the sort of jobs people expected when Mr Modi made their dreams soar with his one-crore-job-a-year assurance. It is this perceived gap between the promise and the ground reality that provoked barbs and taunts from the public. While earning some money through ‘self-employment’ like selling pakoras may be a proverbial last straw to clutch, the unemployed are looking for opportunities to lead a better life.(Published on 12th February 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 07)