Sjm treads Gandhian path

Job Creation Sans Govt

By Shivaji Sarkar

Acute unemployment, the biggest political challenge for the country, is sought to be resolved the Gandhian way by the RSS outfit Swadeshi Jagarn Manch (SJM). It proposes to do so through the farms across over 700 districts. The SJM has launched Swavalambi Bharat Yojana (SBY) at a three-day conclave harnessing the strength of about a score of sister organisations, including the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, to fight the demoniac poverty through a non-governmental effort.

This may be interpreted as freeing the government of its responsibility of providing jobs, a view the government itself has been promoting. The SBY is to open job centres in districts, encourage use of local products, support self-employment, new small-scale enterprises, start-ups, and cooperation-based industries.

The RSS General Secretary Krishna Gopal and SJM coordinator Satish Kumar have set the tone.  Without blaming any government, Kumar told the massive all-India gathering that the issues of rising prices, ecological devastation, corruption and joblessness could not be resolved during the past 75 years despite annual growth of over 6 per cent. Nine lakh youth join the four-crore listed jobseekers every month. Among the G-20 countries, India has the largest number of unemployed, he says. So does also the OECD. And there are 23 crore in utter poverty with an income of Rs 375 a day.

The CMIE figures released on February 17 testify the India unemployment rate in urban areas increased to 10.09 per cent in December from 8.96 per cent the previous month while it decreased in rural areas to 7.44 per cent from 7.55 per cent. CMIE Managing Director Mahesh Vyas also notes that labour participation has also increased to 40.48 per cent in December, the highest level in a year.

Kumar says that the governments emulating the western models not only ignored the youth but even considered them part of the problem. “An improper narrative equated jobs with government or large corporate employment. The job creation is beyond their capability. The SBY would change that by creation of jobs through replicating policy-making NITI Aayog type bodies at the district level. Jobs through entrepreneurship at farms and local businesses would be the new model. The 37-crore youth are being told to be job givers instead of seekers through Rojgar Srijan Kendra.

In a way it may mean that jobs are no more the concern of the government. The narration can usher in a change in the political narrative in targeting the government, something that recently Congress leader Rahul Gandhi did during his Bharat Jodo Yatra. It is being changed to a societal responsibility of seeking solutions to an enigmatic problem.

Krishna Gopal also suggests that the country has to look beyond the governmental effort in creation of jobs or amelioration of economic conditions. The pattern of the Indian economy was different. It began at the farmers’ fields and engulfed the society. Castigating the industrial model of growth, he says it is not sustainable. The dependence of the people in Europe or the US on agriculture is two to four per cent. While about 60 per cent are dependent on agriculture in India and the country has been ignoring agriculture-based economy.

Narrating the woes of the Roman Empire, he quoted Pliny ruing that India robbed the empire of gold by selling items of fancy. Gopal says that India dominated the market 3000 years ago with exports of finest swords, fabric, spices, jewellery, perfume and commanded 24 per cent of the world economy. It draped 30 per cent of the world with cotton and silk fabric.

The British robbed the country of its glory that even during the Mughul rule continued to be the leader in world economy. During British rule, waves of famines reduced food production and post-independence India shipped imports of poor quality wheat. Its ghee production had fallen to 1.5 crore tonne a year. It has now risen to record 3.5 crore tonne. Today India sends free food dole to the needy of the world and is the largest milk producer.

The country has the most fertile land with tremendous variety. Indian doctors, engineers and techies rule the biggest corporate firms. Still the country could not have as many food processing units as it should have. It has 18 to 23 crore’ unemployed. And the number is increasing. This needs change in perspective. That has to come from the districts. India has to decentralise job creation.

The SBY is stressing on One-District-One-Product solution. This would make districts having expertise in one particular area, and take steps to integrate with the worldwide phenomenon. Opportunities are there in floriculture, sericulture, horticulture, flora and fauna and tech.

More was clarified by an expert from Hyderabad, Sridhar Vengu, who narrated how research and development is becoming a money spinner. Replication of the ancient farming that included a whole eco-system of production from pottery, ironsmith, weaving, astrology and the temple priest is not easy. The rural craftsman to migrant labour, all are at a loss today. Industry and farms are at loggerheads. Corrections may be possible but not easy. But one-district-one-product at Tenkasi experiment has yielded satisfactory results. In some tech driven issues, it can even draw Rs 200 billion investments that multiply jobs in diverse ways.

The Sangh about seven years back had also experimented with cluster-group of small industry approach. In a limited way, it has done a bit in some areas of Uttarakhand. In the course of its work, it was experienced that not all local groups can function with equal élan. Since each unit is independent, ego and coordination is not easy. Involving government organisations with their high-brow approach discourages entrepreneurs.

If the SBY could move forward, it would help the cause. But continuity remains an issue. The organisers are hopeful that they would delink jobs from the government and provide as per a SJM paper self employment jobs like rehdi, kiosk, barber, laundry, driver, taxi, auto etc. Gopal says worldwide 20 lakh nursing and drivers each would be in demand.

There is also an issue of finances. If some projects are established, it helps but if not, it can prove to be a dampener. Even inter-organisational coordination has its pros and cons. The SBY is working on the path. It is the beginning of a thought process of making districts the pivot of the economy. Would it relieve the government of job concerns in the run up to the polls in a world besotted with war and recession fears? — INFA