BJP govt building electorate castles

Author: 
Arun Srivastava

Like its interim budget, which not only echoes the government’s recklessness more than its desperation, the Modi government is contemplating to come out with an interim national sample survey of employment to impress upon the electorates that there has been significant and substantial job creation under Modi’s tenure.
Narendra Modi has come to realise the importance of the term interim. Had it not been the case he must not have allowed his minister to present an interim budget. Under the provisions of the Constitution a government can have only five budgets in a full tenure, but our prime minister has kept open the boulevard for bringing in any possible change in the budget midway. The budget was not supplementary and obviously the proper mechanism should have been adhered to. But he kept open the avenue for future maneouverings.   
Modi is known for speaking lies, but now he has started concealing the facts and his not disclosing the real employment figure is the best example. While the NITI Aayog boss Rajiv Kumar claimed that the data in the reported NSSO survey was not verified, just a day after the Ex-NSC Acting Chairman PC Mohanan rubbished the claim and said that the numbers are final. Mohanan said that the report is final and doesn’t need any further approval. In fact only two days ahead of this incident Mohanan alongwith one senior member protesting against suppressing the truth.
The worst victim of Modi government suppressing the facts has been the India’s statistical system which was always the source of pride. Unfortunately it has been becoming a proxy for institutional decay. The latest problem is the scooping of the National Statistical Commission, a body entrusted with setting standards. Its last two independent members put in their papers on Monday, leaving the seven-member body with just two representatives, both from government. The proximate cause was government delay in releasing a new series of employment data, which has been ready for two months. This delay suggests a  casual approach to the economic policy.
The labour force participation rate, which is the proportion of population working or seeking jobs, declined from 39.5 per cent in 2011-12 to 36.9 per cent in 2017-18. Household surveys are the most comprehensive method of assessing the job market. For decades India had a robust household survey for employment, carried out by NSSO at five-yearly intervals. To plug the gap, in 2017 NSSO began a new household survey to publish annual labour force data, the release is being delayed, keeping in view the Lok Sabha elections. It now transpires that the government has been politicising the statistical system to suit its needs. The statistics ministry belatedly released data for GDP last year, It delayed the employment data. The National Statistical Commission was involved in a controversy over the calculation of back series data after the Modi government intoned the method of calculating the total value of goods and services. The autonomous commission’s calculations found growth high during the Manmohan Singh years and low during Modi’s,
Job creation being a critical measure of the efficacy of economic policy, India needs robust and regular job data to achieve better outcomes. An insight into the reasons for delay would reveal that the entire exercise was to please the urban middle class. Modi and his colleagues nurse the view that the middle class will help him again coming back to power. Look at the budget. The entire focus has been on middle class. It did not even care for the rural people and specially the peasants and farmers. Even in the case of budget he played with the statistics and figures.
Modi government hide the employment figure as it would have alienated and angered the urban middle class especially the youth. Though Modi has been emphasising on job creation, he knew that it was impossible task with the economic model he was pursuing.  Obviously for this reason his government discontinued the Labour Bureau’s quarterly enterprises surveys, with the last report being released in March 2018. Moreover, the annual Employment-Unemployment Survey was also scrapped in 2017.  The rate of unemployment among men in rural areas between the ages of 15 and 29 years jumped to 17.4 per cent in 2017-18 compared to 5 per cent in 2011-12.
Information is crucial for democracy. It helps electorate to make informed political choices. Before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, voters have the right to know how their elected government has performed. Suppressing official data on the state of the country has the potential to seriously damage India’s democratic institution. 
One thing is explicit that India can hide unemployment data for keeping the people, particularly youth under dark, but at no cost it can hide the Truth.  Look at the government’s decision to hastily amend the Constitution to set aside 10 per cent of all government posts for the “economically weak.” This is also a mechanism to appease the youth. Modi has played mockery with the democracy by not keeping his promise to create jobs. Narendra Modi had come to power in 2014 on the back of promises to create more jobs. The real impact of demonetisation and GST on the unemployment rate in the country could be far worse than what was portrayed by the headline figures given in the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO's) report for 2017-18.
The Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy, a well-respected business information company that collects primary data on various aspects of the Indian economy, estimates that the country’s unemployment rate in December 2018 reached 7.38 percent. The Modi government’s economic policy has been disproportionately focused on some big corporations, neglecting small firms and traders, the agricultural sector and most workers. The results are now showing through the interim budget and hiding of the unemployment statistics. (IPA)

Friday, 15 February, 2019