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NSSO job data and political ramifications

The latest controversial report prepared by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) of the Government of India has exposed in a revealing manner the deception game of the Narendra Modi regime. The government did not allow the survey to be released leading to the resignation of the two topmost members of the National Statistical Commission chairman PC Mohanan and member J V Meenakshi. The duo while resigning had cited withholding of the publication of the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO’s) employment survey for 2017-18 as some of the key reasons for their resignations. The Modi government, the other day was found struggling to explain reports of joblessness spiking to a 45-year high at 6.1% in 2017-18, after the publication of a leaked NSSO document in an English daily newspaper and  this further reignited the jobless growth debate seen in the United Progressive Alliance era. The situation is in sharp contrast to the electoral promise of creating 20 million jobs every year, made by the ruling party back in 2014. The failure to generate enough jobs, despite high growth as claimed by the Centre, has been the hardest economic challenge in post-reform India.

The report has exploded the myth of high job generation being claimed by the Centre and the leading members of the BJP in the recent days to mislead the people on the eve of the coming Lok Sabha elections. As per the survey conducted by NSSO between July 2017 and June 2018, the unemployment rate has been recorded at 6.1 percent which is highest since 1972-73. Unemployment was higher in the urban areas (7.8 per cent) than in the rural areas (5.3 per cent). If the report is taken as the reflection of truth then this grim scenario has not been created in a day. It has been a continuous process since Modi government came to power. The government instead of concentrating on creation of new jobs and spent more time on ‘acche din’ schemes. On the contrary, the demonetization of 2016 destabilised the informal economy leading to the loss of lakhs of jobs rather than creating new jobs. Back to back economic disruptions from demonetisation and the imposition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) made the task even more difficult to achieve. It is not yet clear whether this government genuinely could not anticipate the collateral damage these two policies would inflict on employment generation. The damage has been done. That is why the NDA government was unwilling to make the findings of the ground situation in the employment market public.

NITI Aayog, which should ideally have nothing to do with employment statistics, has only muddied waters even more by seeking to play down the report. The Opposition parties will seek to score political points ahead of general elections due in May and Congress president Rahul Gandhi has already done the same. There is no denying that the high rate of unemployment is a serious threat in a hugely populous country like India. It can create social problems and cause massive unrest. Instead of resorting to religious politics the government should have concentrated on expanding the job market for the youth.


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