We have been living in an era of uncertainty. An age where our very existence relies solely on pure speculation of what lies ahead and conjecturing conclusions and outcomes out of scenarios and circumstances. Outcomes that may at times overwhelm us with their complexity and gravity. In other cases, their inexplicable nature and the perplexity involved with them makes us question our very being and relevance with respect to the ever-changing dynamics.
There have been pre-existing apprehensions surrounding the advent of newer and newer technological innovations in several sectors of our economy. That has however been the least of our worries, which is for a fact, quite unsurprising. For decades our economy has thrived upon these innovations, beginning with the Green Revolution in India, and the subsequent IT Revolution which introduced numerous breakthroughs in field of science and technology, and prospects for several others, but not without compromise. With the ever-increasing sophistication of machines and automation of industries and commercial centres, our reliance on the products of the evolving technological paradigms is growing at a rate that is unprecedented in the history of mankind.
Considering the current situation concerning our country’s economic order, we can establish unemployment as a major striking issue which continues to plague thousands of helpless and unfortunate Indians. The implications of such a predicament are not limited to a few sectors of our economy but are rather widespread and have infiltrated its roots, primarily the agricultural sector. India, for the past several decades has predominantly been an agricultural economy, and even today it supports the sustenance and livelihood of close to half the population of India even though it only contributes around 17-18 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In an economic survey released in Parliament recently, it was noted that Indian farmers are adapting farm mechanization at a faster rate in comparison to the recent past. Impressive growth has been recorded in the automation and mechanization of agricultural processes, ranging from the usage of tractors for ploughing the fields to the harvesting of crops using mechanical combines. All this has greatly contributed to the enhancement of agricultural productivity and efficiency. While the trend has been viewed by the government to be encouraging, to the keen observer it also presents itself as a distress call for an impending crisis. It is estimated that the percentage of agricultural workers of the total work force would drop to 25.7 percent by 2050 from 58.2 percent in 2001. The disturbing aspect of this trend is the rate of increase in employment in the industrial and service sector is insufficient to fill in the void caused by the diminishing dependence on manual labour in the field of agriculture. This has negatively affected the livelihood of peasants and semi-skilled labourers who primarily rely on this source of employment for their subsistence and that of their families. These people are mostly involved in seasonal employment, which due to current prevailing conditions, is mostly covered in a cloud of doubt. Such undesirable circumstances have strained their earnings, and have further added fuel to their desperation.
Even ambitious schemes such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (NREGA) have failed to permanently resolve this persistent issue largely due to several financial inconsistencies and inadequacies, as a result of leakages and corrupt implementation by the erstwhile UPA government. In 2015, the present NDA regime launched the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojna (PMKVY), which is a skill development initiative scheme for the recognition and standardization of skills. The primary aim of the scheme is to encourage aptitude towards employable skills and to increase working efficiency of probable and existing daily wage earners, by giving monetary awards and by providing quality training to them. However, the inherent flaw in the scheme lies in its very initiative. While the scheme is progressively meeting its assigned targets to train 1 crore Indian youth by 2020, it itself doesn’t guarantee any placements and merely provides placement assistance. The scheme imparts 150-300 hours of training for 221 job roles, and the candidates are either school/college dropouts or are unemployed. This may seem to be an intuitive approach to attract the youth, mostly from a rural background who lack the means and resources to afford higher studies in private or government institutes. For them this represents itself to be a valuable opportunity. But once again, there is an uncertainty which prevails in the present financial situation. It is a prevalent fact there is a dearth of jobs and sources of employment in the country even after the initiation innovative schemes such as Digital India. There are several instances where people fail to get jobs even after graduation from reputed institutes, and have to on numerous occasions cope with periods of unemployment. In such a scenario, maintaining even the slightest expectations of assuring stable jobs to even 10 percent of the trainees under the PMKVY scheme would be ambiguous gesture to say the least.
Our government’s policies have aimed at only softening the blow of mass employment and focussed majorly on damage control. But this isn’t a solution-oriented approach from a government which promised a stable governance and economic and social prosperity for all citizens under the pretext of coming into power. There can be no denial to the fact that a crisis of an unfathomable magnitude is at close proximity. It is essential for the citizens of this nation and the government in power to realise the gravity of the situation and conjure a more effective and productive strategy to counter mass-unemployment. The policy makers need to focus their resources on re-evaluating their current strategies in place and focus primarily on creating new avenues for innovation and development, while at the same time make efforts to strengthen the capacity of existing avenues through direct investment or encourage skilled and semi-skilled individuals to take up fields of study and research specific to prerequisite skill requirement and technical know how for that particular work environment. The quality and standards of existing government and private-run institutes needs to be further reinforced, and these standards need to be maintained in the case of newly established institutes of higher learning through appropriate infusion of funds and proper resource management by the government. Unless we take such evasive measures to avert the crisis in the present time frame, we would eventually witness the greatest threat to democracy, which is none other than the rage and frustration of the 1.3 billion that constitute the world’s largest democracy.