VIEWPOINT

Three years after the Modi government assumed office, the promise of job creation is unmet. The demon of corruption is not yet slayed

As the triumphal march of the Modi-Shah juggernaut continues, smashing the feckless and disorganised Opposition on its way, it is useful to ponder over at least two of the grand hoaxes of the current regime over the last three years that have been impressively successful with the general electorate.

The first one, endlessly repeated in the election campaigns of 2014, was the promise of moving away from the politics of “dole” of the UPA regime, towards that of massive job creation, reproducing the dazzlingly successful “Gujarat model of development” in the rest of India. This appealed to the “aspirational” youth, particularly in north India, where there has been a youth bulge in the demographics. That the Gujarat model of high growth was not really an exemplar in job creation (a substantial part of Gujarat manufacturing growth was in highly capital-intensive activities like petroleum refineries and petro-chemicals) did not deter that appeal.

In the last three years, it is now clear to even the fawning media and politicians that the pace of job creation has not been particularly shining. Some data (for example those of the Labour Bureau for a select number of mainly labour-intensive industries) show even a job decline. In particular, regular formal sector jobs, which is what the aspirational youth hanker after as they leave the low-productivity jobs in agriculture, have remained a tiny proportion of the total employment. The backlog of “surplus workers” (as estimated in the India Employment Report 2016 on the basis of National Sample Survey data) exceeds 50 million workers. As the glittering job promises by the “vikas purush” fade, inevitably the diversionary tactics on the way to 2019 increasingly involve the polarising, majoritarian, poison-fuming Hindutva machinery of the ruling party going into overdrive.

If the supreme leader cannot give you good jobs, he can at least impress you with his valiant fight against the demon of corruption. Even if you dismiss the election promise of getting Rs 15 lakh in everybody’s bank account from the foreign-stashed corrupt money as what BJP president Amit Shah called “jumla”, you cannot ignore the bold launching of the “brahmastra” of demonetisation in November 2016. This has turned out to be one of the grandest hoaxes in Indian political history.

 

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