The Narendra Modi government used thousands of crores of taxpayers' money to issue full front-page newspaper advertisements across the country on 26th May to highlight its achievements in last three years in power.
The advertisements delineated what the government has done for the welfare of different sections of society. Out of the 11 parameters of its achievement it set out to highlight, one was dedicated to the youth of the country. It read: "Strength of a New India, Power of the Youth."
What is the major concern of the youth today? Jobs, of course. But what a surprise! The section on youth has not a word on how many jobs were created in the last three years. This section merely said the following: "Around 1 crore youth to get training under Skill India scheme; 109 new Kendriya Vidyalayas, 62 Navodaya Vidyalaya, 7 new IIMs and 6 new IITs are being developed; Scholarships to 1 crore SC\ST\OBC students directly deposited in their bank accounts; New opportunities created for the youth under 'Start-up India.'"
Well, if a government that works, and one which is not paralysed, has this to offer as its achievement in three years, let us accept it. But the question is, what has the government done in the last three years to provide jobs to the youth? Why is the government silent in its report card about the number of jobs created in each of the last three years?
Remember Narendra Modi's exhortations during the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections— that the paralysed government of Manmohan Singh had failed to fulfil the aspirations of the youth, and that the Congress government created jobless growth? Modi had then assured us that if he was elected to power, he would created at least one crore jobs a year.
The creation of jobs was one of the anchors of Modi's election campaign. He kept hammering in the point that 65% Indians were younger than 35 and he would make their life meaningful by providing each one of them a job suited to their capacity.
After the "muscular" Modi government came to power, the job creation level has come down to almost one-third of what was the case with the "paralytic" Singh government.
Why has he then skirted the issue when he has to present a report card to his countrymen?
The fact is that the Modi government has lost face on this front. In fact, its achievement on this count is worse than that of the Manmohan Singh government that it so fervently denounced.
Consider the facts: in the calendar year 2015, the first full year the Modi government was in power (for which the official data are available), merely 1.35 lakh jobs were created (which is a far cry from the big boast of creating 1 crore jobs a year; the actual jobs created were just about 1 per cent of the claim made).
Contrast this with the job creation record of the Manmohan government: in 2011, 9.3 lakh jobs were created. Even in the so-called 'paralysis years' – 2012 and 2013 – the Congress government managed 5.48 lakh and 4.19 lakh jobs respectively. Even in the transition year – 2014 – 4.21 lakh jobs had been created.
But after the "muscular" Modi government came to power, the job creation level has come down to almost one-third of what was the case with the "paralytic" Singh government (and this is based on the Ministry of Labour data).
That explains the studied silence of the BJP government about its dismal job creation record.
The Modi government has in fact become a symbol of jobless growth, a charge it repeatedly flung at the Singh government. With India's GDP growth continuing to hover above 7%, clearly the government is clueless about the state of our economy and the measures needed to create jobs.
This has dangerous portents for the country. The official record tells us that annual employment growth in India was 0.5% during the period 2004-12 and the labour force growth during the same period was 2.9%. This tells us about the dismal scenario under the UPA regime.
What is the NDA's story? On an average, 10 lakh new people joined the workforce every month in 2015. But the fact that only 1 lakh 35 thousand jobs were created in the whole year, meant that only 0.01% of the new labour force actually found work.
An honest government would seek to discuss the challenges it faces and consider ways and means to overcome them. But the Modi government, ostrich-like, seeks to wish away the challenge altogether.
The Modi government found it difficult to digest. So in a sleight of hand, it changed the parameters of the tabulation of employment generation data—it added the service sector employment data to what so far reflected only the data on the organised sector. Even then, the result was hardly reassuring. In 2016, it managed to show the employment generation of only 2.31 lakh, which is again dismal compared to the Manmohan Singh government's record; 2017 does not hold out any rosier picture.
"Make in India" is an interesting slogan but its job creation potential on a mass scale is limited. Jobs in the manufacturing sector are difficult to come by because this sector is increasingly becoming capital-intensive and mechanised. Its share of employment has been coming down drastically over the years. On last count, the share of the manufacturing sector in overall employment was only about 1.7%. In the days to come, this share is also likely to further shrink, given the relentless technological upgradation taking place in the industry.
There are some avenues in the manufacturing sector—such as textiles, furniture, leather products, rubber products, motor vehicles and electrical equipment—which were considered labour-intensive and capable of generating greater employment. The textile industry employs 4.5 crore people directly and 6 crore people indirectly. The government has clearly not made much headway in increasing the job creation potential in these sectors.
What has the government done to create right kind of skills for the youth to be eligible for jobs? The government has encouraged the creation of private industrial training institutes (ITIs), which are mushrooming in every nook and corner of the country. Barring a few, others are just fraudulent shops. They merely ladle out certificates in exchange of certain amount of money.
With such an only-on-paper skilled labour force at hand, is there a redeeming feature for India's employment generation scene? An honest government would seek to discuss the challenges it faces and consider ways and means to overcome them.
But the Modi government, ostrich-like, seeks to wish away the challenge altogether. Its spin doctors have chosen to make unemployment concerns disappear from the public mind by blacking out its mention in the three-year report card.
But Narendra Modi must remember that the ghost of the "1 crore jobs a year" promise will haunt him when he sets out to begin his campaign for 2019.