Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Empowering The Poor

Updated: July 5, 2014 12:14 pm

After perhaps the most hectic and historic elections for 16th Lok Sabha; now the picture is crystal clear with BJP having won absolute majority along with NDA. BJP and BJP led NDA need not look towards others political parties for taking decisions. This is also an undoubted fact that the new government has inherited along with this government, failures of previous UPA government. NDA now has to give solutions to the present day problems and deliver. In the last three years of UPA rule, GDP growth has come down to nearly 5 percent and inflation has gone up to 2 digits. Huge Current Account Deficit (CAD) had weakened rupee down to near Rs. 69 per dollar at one point before improving to Rs. 60 per dollar later. Credibility of Indian economy in general and rupee in particular is at its lowest point. Growth rate of manufacturing which was 15 percent in 2007-08, had entered into negative zone in 2013-14 with (-)0.2 percent. Mismanagement of the economy had sent the economy to drains with hardly any vibrancy and employment generation had practically stalled.

Biggest failure of the UPA was in the employment sector. It is notable that every year nearly one crore 20 lakh persons add to our workforce. So we can say our working population grew by 12 crores in the last 10 years. However UPA could add only 2 million jobs annually in the last 10 years, implying thereby creation of 2 crores jobs in the last 10 years. By implication, unemployment increased by 10 crores in the last 10 years.

UPA, model for the economy had merely been a model of promoting interests of foreign capital and paving way for foreign companies to expand their wings. There was hardly any scope for employment generation. Previous Planning Commission’s Deputy Chairman Montek Singh and the Prime Minister himself had conceded number of times that this model of growth was a jobless growth model. Amidst this scenario on the ground, Congress had kept on promising employment generation and its manifesto during this election was also no exception. It seems their promises were merely gimmicks to garner votes.

Then Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission concedes that though employment creation was less, agricultural growth was better and therefore agricultural workers’ wages improved. However situation on the ground does not support his argument. Fact is that workers, who have been tilling their own land, have actually been deprived of their land and have become landless labourers. Worst sufferers have been scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, women and other deprived sections of the society.

POOR LOSING LAND

Statistics published by Census of India reveal startling facts. According to the census data, in Scheduled Tribe category 44.7 percent people were farmers working on their own land in 2001; however this number came down to 34.5 percent. In case of Scheduled Castes this number declined from 20 percent to 14.8 percent during the same period. This data is corroborated by another data from census, according to which number of people who were working not on their own land but on others’ land (landless labourers), increased from 36.9 percent in 2001 to 44.4 percent in 2011 for SC category and during the same period from 45.6 percent to 45.9 percent in case of ST category.

In just ten years, such a big chunk getting deprived from their land is a matter of grave concern, Erosion in the economic conditions of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes exposes the reality of the claims of improving the standard of living of the poor. Only one data, which may compose a little bit, is increase in the literacy rates in these sections, especially among SC/ST females. It is notable that literacy amongst SCs increased from 54.7 percent to 66.1 percent, whereas in case of STs this increased from 47.1 percent to 59 percent. However these literacy rates are much lower than the national average of 73 percent.

DECLINING QUALITY OF EMPLOYMENT

Census data clearly reveals that it is not only erosion in economic condition by losing land titles by these sections, even quality of their employment has also come down. Stability of employment has also been getting eroded all these years. Number of people categorised as main workers (those with continuous employment of 6 months or more), have come down from 73 percent and 69 percent to 70.7 percent and 64.8 percent in SCs and STs Category respectively. This shows that casualisation of labour has increased in these sections of the society. Statistics of casual labour in SC/STs also corroborates the same.

OUSTED FROM HOUSEHOLD INDUSTRIES TOO

Not only these Dalits are deprived of their traditional land forced to work on others’ land, these Dalits are leaving their household industries too. According to the data published by Census of India, number of SC workers in household industries declined from 3.9 percent to 3.2 percent in the last 10 years. In case of STs this number declined from 2.1 percent to 1.8 percent.

DECLINING WOMEN PARTICIPATION TOO

Not only that Dalits are ousted from their land and are also leaving their traditional occupations, even participation of women of these sections has also declined significantly, which is also a matter of grave concern. It is notable that in 2001, 29.4 percent SC women were working, which declined to 28.3 percent in 2011. In case of STs women this number declined from 44.8 percent to 43.5. Declining participation of Dalit women not only indicates at declining income of Dalits, it is also demonstrative of erosion in women empowerment.

ALL POOR ARE AT DISADVANTAGE

Issue is not of Dalits alone, as this problem of deprivation is not caste based. All deprived sections are at loss similarly. In fact all poor and small farmers are losing their land, their household industries, small occupations like small shops etc. and are losing their self employment and are joining the army of casual labour. According to Report of 66th Round of NSSO, between 2004-05 and 2009-10, nearly 250 lakh people lost their self employment and casual labour increased by 220 lakh in these five years. Latest Census data corroborate these statistics. It may be noted that NSSO statistics is based on sample survey, whereas Census data is based on whole population and therefore are more dependable. Census data therefore clearly indicates at worsening of condition of poor and down trodden.

WHAT SHOULD THE NEW GOVERNMENT DO?

Today it is imperative to have a state policy that ensures sustainable and productive employment opportunities for the poor and unemployed. For this we will have to transform the methods of production. We need to incentivize the farmer by giving remunerative price and end apathy towards agriculture; control imports especially consumer goods and capital goods, of which we have capability to produce ourselves; keep in check the prices and thereby reduce interest rates to encourage growth; and in general a human face to our economic policy.

By Ashwani Mahajan

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