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A gloomy scenario, indeed. A  scenario, however, that doesn’t fully capture the bleakness of stagnation. As the Modis are unable to create sufficient job opportunities, they are trying to divert public attention to areas that hardly matter to the unemployed, the vulnerably employed and the economically inactive population in prime working ages (25-54). They are trying to arrest youth anger in national or anti-national-chorus while refusing to address the perennial problem of reservation in some segments of society that never raised the issue of quota in government jobs so vociferously before as they are doing now.

Various social groups are now asking for a ‘‘backward’’ status that would allow them to have a greater access to government job quotas. The Patels’ agitation in August 2015 resulted in reportedly 12 deaths. Four days of violence in Haryana in February 2016, left 20 people dead. Jat protesters selectively targeted the non-Jat traders. Curfew was imposed in several towns. The Gujjars in Rajasthan, the Kapus in Andhra Pradesh and the Marathas in Maharashtra are mobilised to have their share of quota in government service. The dominant castes, otherwise not so socially and economically disadvantaged do not see any future in agriculture, because of city attraction and crisis in India’s villages. The wages of rural India were increasing at 3.6% only (2014-15), when the inflation rate was above 5%, against 2% in 2011. Many landowners next to big cities are selling land to developers, and some even becoming rentiers. In truth those who are demanding backward status are land-owing class. Most migrants who left their villages for the city, are disappointed by the job market. Unlike the middle class in urban areas, the rural migrants have not received English-medium education, and are deprived of access to the services sector and the IT sector. The rural migrants frequently pile heavy debts to obtain private education, and generally fall back on unskilled jobs. The jobs are prcarious and badly paid.

The average daily earnings of the workers was Rs 249 (2011-12), and those of other employees was Rs 388. The public sector figures were respectively almost three times more at Rs 679 and Rs 945. The Seventh Pay Commission has recommended an increase of the minimum monthly salary from Rs 7000 to Rs 18,000.

Young Jats, Patels, Kapus and Marathas who do not find good jobs in the private sector, fall back on government jobs. The skewed sex ratio too influences the search for government jobs. Girls and their parents prefer grooms with stable income on government jobs. These castes have fewer girls compared to boys, creating competition in the marriage market. But government jobs have declined. The public sector in 1992-93 had 19.5 million jobs. When India’s population was 893 million. Now India’s population is 1.2 billion, while the public sector has shrunk to 17.6 million jobs. Gujarat which had aggressively implemented the liberalisation policy, the government’s share in employment is only 1.18%, whereas it is 16% in Kerala. The dominant castes demand to be counted as Other Backward Classes (OBCs), to benefit from government’s job reservation policy. Conceding to the demand may alienate those already in the OBC list. The Supreme Court had earlier imposed a 49% limit on quota reservation. In the post-Mandal era, the BJP-Sangh Parivar would pursue criterion of quotas on ‘‘arthik adhar’’ (economic) basis. Labour costs are rising in China. Creation of jobs in India is falling radically short of India’s demographic demand.

The hard fact is that jobs are vanishing globally. The world’s number of unemployed workers and those with precarious employment is expected to rise during 2016 and 2017. The International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations agency that just issued its ‘‘World Employment Social Outlook’’, predicts that 200 million people will be unemployed in 2016, three million more than last year. This will be most acute in middle-income and poor countries. Brazil and China alone are expected to add 1.5 million to the unemployment rolls. India doesn’t figure in their calculation because there is hardly any reliable system to record subsistence and informal workers.

Searching jobs in ‘quota’ has its limits but in absence of well-directed political agitation against unemployment and less security the persons in authority could easily crush these sectarian job movements under caste umbrella.

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 40, Apr 10 - 16, 2016