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In Focus

September, 12

UC Berkeley: The key issue raised by Rahul Gandhi that Smriti Irani failed to address

Given the great response to Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s UC Berkeley speech, it was predictable that the BJP would soon deploy someone from their party to put together a hastened repartee. Indeed, the BJP had to pull Smriti Irani away from her ministerial duties to address a press conference.

Ironically, the minister who lost heavily to Mr. Gandhi in Amethi in 2014, chose to call the latter a “failed” politician.

In her irrelevant criticism of the 18-minute long speech, there is nothing that stands out. There were no rejoinders on the key issues highlighted by Mr. Gandhi. Perhaps, in their eagerness to find fault with his address, they forgot to listen to what he was saying.

Let us make it easier for them. During his UC Berkeley speech, Mr. Gandhi made 12 references to the word “jobs”. Indeed, he said, “The central challenge of India is jobs.”

Three years after hullabaloo, and the euphoria over the new government has settled, it is time to ask the hard questions of this government. Speaking of jobs, Mr. Gandhi said, “No amount of growth is enough for India if it's not accompanied by the creation of jobs. It doesn't matter how fast you grow. If you are not creating jobs, you are not actually solving the problem. So, the central challenge of India is jobs. Roughly 12 million young people, 12 million, enter the Indian job market every year. Nearly 90% of them have a high school education or less. India is a democratic country and unlike China, it has to create jobs in a democratic environment.”

He added: “Currently, we are not producing enough jobs. 30,000 new youngsters are joining the job market every single day and yet the Govt. is only creating 500 jobs a day. And this doesn't include the massive pool of already unemployed youngsters.”

Further, as per an analysis by data portal India Spend, India’s unemployment rate in 2015-16 was 5% of the labour force.  The same figure was 4.9% in 2013-14, the year before the BJP assumed power.

Jobs created the key eight sectors of manufacturing, trade, construction, education, health, IT , transport, and accommodation and restaurant etc. went down considerably.

In the period between July 2014 and December 2016, the eight sectors combined created 6,41,000 jobs. In the corresponding period under the UPA government, these sectors had generated 12,80,000 jobs – double the number!

Moving on, here’s a look at the state of the jobs added under Prime Minister’s Employment Generation scheme. Consider the dip in the graph post 2014. Mr. Modi had promised before the elections that he would create one

crore jobs. The nation is waiting for that promise to be fulfilled The drastic change in the jobs scenario is slowly starting to reflect in how people feel about their lives under the Modi government. In a survey spanning 200 cities conducted by the platform Local Circles, 63% said that the government’s efforts to bring down unemployment had failed.

Economic Growth is not reflecting on jobs, the gap between the rich and poor is widening, and it is the marginalised and the deprived that are suffering the most under the current regime, said the Centre for Equity Studies in its India Exclusion Report 2016.

Now, these are morbid figures, that one would expect Smriti Irani, or for that matter, anyone from the government of the ruling part to be accountable for. But, no, not the BJP or the Modi government. As Rahul Gandhi pointed out in his speech, this government does not listen or is ever open to a conversation. And they certainly don’t answer

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