Thursday, June 20, 2013


There is a wide spread perception among international agencies that the unemployment situation in India is serious and people are starving because of lack of adequate income generation opportunities, especially for the vast mass of unskilled and illiterate citizenry. A recent report from the government sources however gives a totally different picture vis-a-vis the employment situation where people are shunning work even under some of the government sponsored employment schemes under some of the laws like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act! If the employment situation is really grim, why should people shun the offer of the government to give work for every citizen above 18 years of age at least for 100 days in an year and in a family with at least two adults the annual income works out to more than Rs 30000, adequate for sustenance. Still demand for this dole out is progressively coming down during the last 4 years with very few takers coming forward to take up work under the Scheme! Why? What is the real reason? There may be many "official" explanations but the fact still remains that people do not want to take up this offer from the government because they have better income generating opportunities elsewhere! How can any one believe the 'statistics" being published regularly by the government on the unemployment situation in the country? Here is a take on this ironic situation. 

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act makes it mandatory for the State government to ensure a minimum 100 days of unskilled manual labour for any person above the age of 18, demanding employment under the scheme. But, cut to 2013, there are no takers for the scheme. As per the data provided by MGNREGA at the State level, between 2009-2010 and 2012-2013, the cumulative number of households with job cards demanding employment through this flagship scheme declined from 74,753 to 15,303 in Bangalore (both rural and urban). According to officials, in 2013-2014, there will be a further dip in the job demand. The total number of job cards issued to households in the City has also seen a sudden dip of 60 per cent in the past four years. The phenomenon is no different in other parts of Karnataka. In the same time period, the State has experienced a decline of around 61 per cent, from 36 lakh to 14 lakh, in job demand. "The scheme in Karnataka was started with great enthusiasm and had received good response from the people. But, in the last few years, the impact has tapered off to a great extent, due to several bureaucratic issues," said Chandrashekar, Joint Director, MGNREGS, Karnataka.

Another less charitable view of the situation is that people are being made lazy by various populist schemes through which government spends public money largely to further the interests of the political group that rules the country and they are satisfied by what they are getting almost free like rice, wheat, gas connections, television sets etc without raising a finger! With the Cash Transfer Scheme now being implemented at a huge cost, cash is going to be put in the hands of the so called poor to spend as they like and why should any one work if his needs are satisfied by sitting at home enjoying a retired life even before the life starts? Many critics believe that in a matter of few years after implementing all these misconceived schemes, India may have to import "human beings" from neighboring countries to do hard work on various developmental projects!. No wonder that industrial production is dipping alarmingly low and infrastructure activities are not taking off because of such a huge human shortage for doing hard work. What will be the impact of these changes on food production in future? Small farmers are likely to be wiped out leaving large landholders to carry out agricultural operations using large scale mechanization! Is India going to be a nation of zombies with no initiative to work and wasting precious human wealth? Only time will tell!   


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