Lok Sabha Elections 2004
Under BJP Rule:
No Jobs for Millions
Five years of BJP-led misrule has ruined the country’s employment situation and even the future potential for employment growth. The Tenth Plan document says that 3.485 crore persons were unemployed in 2001–02, compared to 2.644 crores in 1999–2000. It further estimates that in the next five years, approximately 70 lakh additional persons will be looking for jobs every year. Registered unemployed in the Employment Exchanges stood at 4.16 crores in August 2002 as against 3.91 crores in 1997. Employment statistics provided periodically by the government have always been gross underestimates. Independently, and more reliably, it is estimated that actual unemployment is in the region of 7% of the population, i.e., about 7 crores. Even existing jobs are getting reduced, or conditions of work are being made more onerous, for lesser returns. Thus more and more people are forced to seek work as wages stagnate or decline. Insecurity and drudgery have increased for the vast mass of people even as life ‘shines’ for the rich.
The annual average growth rate of the economy was 6.7% during 1992–97, prior to the BJP regime coming to power. It has declined to below 5% during the period 1998–2002 – indicating that economic productive activity has slowed down. The Special Group on Targetting Ten Million Employment Opportunities per year set up by the Planning Commission admits that even if the growth rate of the economy increases to 8% per annum, only 60 lakh jobs can be created per year. Actually, estimates are that about 30 lakh jobs have been generated per year in the recent past – a far cry from the one crore jobs per year promised by the BJP-led government.
The experience of the past decade portends an alarming situation for employment opportunities. Even the limited economic growth and increased foreign investments have not led to an increase in employment opportunities. The phenomenon of jobless growth which has been afflicting the advanced countries of the West now haunts India, and the BJP-led government seeks to conceal it behind the gloss of campaign management. This is happening because more money is invested in technology and mechanisation, while productivity of workers is coerced upwards, leading to a situation where increases in output do not indicate increases in jobs. Thus a 5% increase in agricultural production would have led to a 4.6% increase in employment in agriculture in the 1980s but today it would merely lead to an increment of 0.05%! A similar, though not so steep, decline afflicts the whole economy. Despite increases in agricultural output, employment in agriculture is stagnating. Over 75% of the country’s unemployed are in the rural areas. Once quantitative restrictions are removed under the WTO regime and mammoth agri-business multinationals set about taking over the agricultural sector in the country, using modern technology, mechanisation and wholesale changes in the agricultural pattern, the disastrous effects would become compounded. A parallel ‘jobless growth’ appears to pervade the non-agricultural sectors too. The much-touted BPO-based jobs like call centres and back-office jobs have yielded barely 2 lakh jobs in the country. The same is the case with the IT sector in general. In the small-scale sector a study has estimated that there will be a 36% decline in employment due to technology intensive investments. It is under the aegis of the BJP dispensation that this situation has arisen, and is threatening the future of the country.
Retrenchment, Closure, Lockouts, Sickness
Let us now look at the stark reality that faces nearly 40 crore Indians that need to work in order to live and care for their families.
¨ In the organised sector, which provided some kind of decent work till recently, there has been an absolute decline in employment both in the public as well as the private sectors. Between 1998 and 2002 (under BJP’s ‘ram-rajya’) employment in public sector declined from 194.18 lakhs to 187.66 lakhs (6.52 lakh jobs lost) while in the private sector, employment declined from 87.48 lakhs to 85.66 lakhs (1.82 lakh jobs lost). The BJP-led government has publicly announced that it will reduce government jobs by 10% in the next five years, i.e. throw out 66,000 persons every year. This also means that vacancies are not being filled up and alternatives like outsourcing or contractualisation are being sought. Thus there are 1.57 lakh vacancies in Group C and D in the Railways, which are not being filled up. Recently, when 20,000 posts were sought to be filled up, the Railways received 75 lakh applications!
¨ Till December 1997, 2,084 sick companies were registered in BIFR involving 13 lakh employees. This has increased to 4,748 companies involving 24 lakh employees by December 2003. The possibility of these hapless workers getting their jobs back is very remote.
¨ If this is the condition of big units (which come under BIFR), what would be the situation in the small-scale sector? In the past few years, over 5 lakh small scale units have been forced to close down rendering over 50 lakh workers jobless, as per the Small Scale Industries Federation. The rate of growth of output in the small-scale sector declined from 8.16% in 1999–2000 to 6.08% in 2001–02, while employment growth declined from about 4% to 3.5%.
¨ Loss of work due to attacks by the employers have also shown massive increase in the past few years. While lockouts declared by employers caused a loss of 1 crore mandays in 1997, such losses increased to 18 crores by 2001. By September 2003, loss of mandays due to lockouts constituted 90% of total loss due to industrial disputes.
One of the most astounding claims being made by the BJP-led government in it’s election campaign is that it has created 84 lakh new jobs every year, thereby coming close to fulfilling the promise of creating 1 crore jobs per year.
Where has this magical figure come from? Employment data is collected and made available by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) which conducts large sample surveys every five years. Thus the last (55th) Round of survey over a large sample was held in 1999–2000 and the next one is due in 2004–05. Planning Commission and all other authoritative publications like the annual Economic Survey released by the Government of India base their analysis on these large surveys. However, since the BJP rule falls precisely between the large surveys, where have they arrived at their data from? The NSSO also carries out smaller surveys, devoted to specific issues, in the intervening years. During the course of these much smaller surveys, apart from the main focus, people are asked to report on their ‘usual status’ or ‘current daily status’ of employment. It is from these survey reports that the house of cards on employment has been built by the BJP government.
These small surveys not only do not reflect the much larger reality but are completely unreliable as regards questions of employment. In fact it is the first time that Planning Commission is basing itself on these reports – perhaps to suit the needs of the BJP government. That these figures are questionable is shown by the fact that they run contrary to output or production data. For instance, although agricultural production declined in 2000–01 and 2002–03 the surveys show that male employment grew steadily in rural India to the tune of 170 lakhs in three years. Even during the most severe drought in a decade, employment was growing according to these small surveys! And even in the small sample surveys, the government has tried to deceive the people: as per the survey, employment has actually declined by 90 lakhs during 1 January 2002 and 1 October 2002. However, the BJP government has not revealed this and used an arbitrary period of July–December 2002!
Employment Generation Schemes
The BJP government is claiming that the fantastic growth in employment has come about due to additional jobs it has created through special employment programmes and infrastructure development projects that it initiated. The blatant falsehood contained in this stands revealed if we look at the fate of these special programmes. In the Sampurna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY), only about 73% of the total allocated funds were utilised and employment creation was 52% of the target in 2001–02, which declined to about 50% utilisation in the next year, and 46% of the target of employment creation. As far as the Swarnjayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY) goes, its fund allocation itself has been slashed from Rs 1105 crores in 1999–2000 to Rs 567.9 crores in 2002–03, while utilisation varied between about 48% in 2002–03 and 75% in the previous year. For urban areas, there was the Swarn Jayanti Shahri Rozgar Yojana (SJSRY) for which total allocation has been cut from about Rs 158 crores in 1998–99 to Rs 38 crores in 2001–02. We are thus confronted with a sordid tale of declining allocation and measly utilisation of funds meant for job creation on precisely those schemes which are claimed to have helped create those mythical jobs.
Crowding the Informal Sector
So, how are all the people surviving? Firstly, there is an expanding services sector, i.e. non-agricultural, non-production type of work, mainly comprising low-paid jobs with no security, onerous conditions and drudgery. There is no guarantee of year-round work. Secondly, overlapping with this is informal or contractual work which may extend into agriculture or industry also. In fact the government is planning to institutionalise contract-based ‘fixed term’ employment through legislation, thereby throwing lakhs of workers to the mercy of avaricious employers. The BJP-led government’s policies have thus forced the working people into extremely insecure, often dangerous and ill-paid work, while closing down opportunities of decent employment. Marginalisation and casualisation of work is vividly reflected in the data provided by Census 2001. The share of main workers has declined from 34% of the workforce in 1991 to 30% in 2001 while the share of marginal workers has increased from 3.3 to 8.7% in the same period.
In sum, the working people in India are reeling under a vicious attack by the BJP-led government. Regular and self-employment are stagnating or declining, casual/irregular work and underemployment are increasing. The bottom of the economic pyramid is being crowded with more and more people getting precipitated downwards, increasing the ranks of agricultural labourers, construction workers, and other unorganised and informal sector workers, in all sectors. Across the board, workers have to work more and get less in return. The rural-urban divide is sharper, with less regular jobs and lower wages in rural occupations, forcing migrations. On the other hand, within different regions of the country, uneven development, a legacy of history, is further exacerbated. What is needed today is a policy that creates sustainable decent employment for all, with honourable wages and social security. And for that, the present rulers have to be categorically rejected in the coming elections.