What chances for the employment guarantee and such populist schemes to succeed?
New Delhi environment is lately very tentative. Though the Congress-led coalition government is in office for 20 months, the focus and direction of the government is not purposeful. Instead of any cohesion, there is a weakening of the collective will of the government. Coalition government in 20 months hasn’t done anything dramatic on the economic development front. Prof.Kanthi says that in the USA there was a similar scheme, the Humprey Hawkins Act passed by the US Congress, which guaranteed “full employment” to US citizens but eventually turned out to be a failure. Dr.Kanthi says that in the changing global economic order, it is not for the governments to distribute jobs. If any government does that, it (the scheme) will only make the people depend upon the government. The time is conducive for creating environment for people to become self-reliant and also make people find jobs through the various private-public sectors creating jobs through the markets.
Markets today are not driving people away from jobs; in fact jobs are now in search of people who want them. Even the poor migrate from villages in search of jobs and jobs in the cities and also in the various new services are absorbing people at higher wages. The inter-state migration of labour in construction jobs is the latest trend for manual labour. Also for the educated, there is now the new phenomenon of a knowledge society, a knowledge economy and knowledge industries, IT and BPO are the magnets that attract talent from all sorts of sources, from small towns too. IT that now employs 14 million people can’t give jobs for all. But there can be many new initiatives like creating info kiosks, IT parks in rural areas, away or nearer to the existing cities so that new centers of employment generation takes place, new towns attract a wide variety of job seekers. Urbanisation itself is a magnet for job creation.
Yes, all this assumes there is strict adherence to laws, governance norms. If not, then, there can be chaos in urban governance, as we find already in the urban unauthorised constructions and also demolition cases. In New Delhi demolition of unauthorized structures we see a new phenomenon of illegalities by VVIPs who own nearly 300 out of 600 such illegal occupants of government lands. So criminal-political nexus could defeat and elay planned transformation of the economy. The UPA government is already proving to be unequal to the task of setting the governance norms in place. Luckily, the Supreme Court had interfered in the last one year itself in a variety of government failures.
So, what chance for the poor? Unemployed? Unempowered? For the totally neglected agri sector? All big questions. When you have a weak government where dual power centre operates, when you have so many distortions, when the big and the powerful and the criminal elements go unpunished, then all you have is hope. Let us hope for the more positive forces to come out in the polity.