— Dalim Phukan The magnitude of total unemployment is staggering in India and is perhaps larger than in any other country of the world. India’s employment is today 44 per cent of the population in rural areas and 40 per cent in urban areas. The estimated 15.6 million chronically unemployed is really a big number. In fact, the impact of unemployment on the economy is so widespread that its social and economic consequences need to be reckoned with in any planning effort for the economy as a whole.
Professor Dantawala emphasised that unemployment and under-employment are a proximate reflection of two sets of deeper causes, namely, the inadequacy of total absence of an asset lease (property or skill) and the exploitative institutional arrangements. What is, therefore, called for in solving the problem of under employment is the ensuring of the long term economic viability of persons affected. It would thus involve the restructuring of the human and physical capital base as also the reorganisation of the production process.
Dr Raj Krishna contends that, when the objective is to provide employment to every single unemployed or under-employed person, so that every family is enabled to have a minimum annual income of Rs 4,000, planning has to be multi-sectoral. He would like the manpower budget to be “an inherent part of the whole plan.” “The objective of the manpower budget is simply to ensure that the proposed activities in all sectors would together absorb the present nabour surplus as well as additions to the work force over the next five to ten years at an income level close to the poverty line.” Except in areas where productivity is already high and population density is relatively low, it may not be possible to plan local full employment without accelerating activity in a number of sectors. Dr Raj Krishna is of the view that labour absorption per hectare is higher on small farms. We should attempt increased productivity in small farms to optimise operational activities in them.
For the first time since the inception of planned development in this country, employment has been placed in the forefront as the principal objective of development strategy. While the overall estimate of unemployment indicates the magnitude of the efforts that is called for, its sectoral distribution determines the contours of the development programmes and the priorities in investment. Expansion of employment opportunities in the rural areas, which account for the bulk if the unemployment, has to be accorded top priority within the overall scheme for employment generation. Unless this is done, rural unemployment overflowing into the urban areas will swamp all efforts to tackle urban unemployment which is more visible and causes more misery.
To remove unemployment and under-employment in rural areas, a programme of rural industrialisation shall be launched. The relevant questions are about the type of rural industries to be launched, their location, their organisation pattern as viable units etc for this purpose, techno-economic syrveys of rural areas should be planned to assess the needs and potential of various regions such as follows: (a) a thorough survey of the area showing existing potential supply of industrial raw materials; (b) an environment of success represented by a minimum optimal size of the village, growth of adequate number of market towns and easy means of communication between market town and surrounding villages; (c) an institution which is prepared to venture and show the successful nature of a particular industry before it is passed on to private hands; (d) the provision of in-plant training to entrepreneurs as well as workers in the institutional ventures; (e) the supply of credit to deserving cases even on personal guarantee, through normal banking system. For the first time, the UPA government launched a mega employment guarantee scheme viz – “National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in 2005 for the rural poor. How long this act has been able to implement the rural works, social justice and equity demand for taking care of the unemployed and under-employed from the poor families, the moribund village-economy will explain the facts. The deep-rooted corruption foiled the very aims of the NREGA particularly in rural Assam, when jobcards meant for rural poor have been misused by the corrupt – officials and some political leaders of ruling party in village areas.
In any strategy of planning for maximum employment, an appropriate action programme will have to be devised for tackling the problem of educated unemployed. The fault lies mainly with a faulty educational system that produces poor quality students unfit and unprepared for careers. The over-emphasis on ‘respectable’ jobs has caused a neglect in the areas where lakhs of trained craftsmen are needed as electricians, mechanics, plumbers, masons, carpenters, cook etc. If there could be a harmonious matching of unfinished tasks of development and content of educational programmes, a sizeable number of jobs could be generated for the educated unemployed. Linking job development programme with technical change and development of skill-intensive industries will certainly expand employment opportunities for the educated unemployed.
If only our planners and policy makers had put fewer fetters on the real employment generation of the producers, relied less on laws and regulations, there would have been a rapid decline in the number of unemployed.
The problem of growing unemployment has been snowballing since the last two decades and has now attained such menacing proportions that it has become the primary threat to the country’s stability and security. Economic growth which does not bridge the gap between the rich and the poor will only promote social inequalities and injustice incompitable with the spirit of the times. The planners and policy-makers are fully aware that economic growth which does not guarantee employment opportunities to a growing population will be self-defeating, if not counter productive. ASSAM TRIBUNE