Aftermath of Bihar drubbing: Need for people-oriented policy
by Ashok B Sharma on 20 Nov 2015 1 Comment

One of the major causes for the BJP’s debacle in the recent elections to the Bihar state assembly was that Prime Minister Modi’s assurance of acche din (good days) did not reach the people at the grassroots level. The people gave the BJP a bumper victory in the last parliamentary polls in the hope that they would soon see the fruits of development; but their hopes were belied and the Modi wave gradually started ebbing.


The Prime Minister did launch ambitious programmes like Make in India, Digital India, Swacch Bharat (Clean India) and Smart Cities. But these programmes have long gestation periods and need patience to yield results. The people want some immediate results on the ground. These programmes need huge investments from both domestic and foreign sources. Efforts were made to simplify project clearance procedures and attract foreign direct investments. The result was that Mr Modi began to be perceived as an advocate of crony capitalism. In the immediate term, no project fructified to augment the promised job opportunity.


Mr Modi did launch programmes that can reach immediate benefits to the poor and unemployed. Skill Development is one such programme, but this was not implemented with the zeal and sincerity it deserved. Rather, much publicity and aggressiveness was shown in implementing Make in India and Digital India and for attracting foreign direct investments. If the Skill Development programme was implemented in real earnest, millions of unemployed youth across the country could have been trained in a short span of time. This could have instilled confidence in them and helped them to get jobs or become entrepreneurs.


The government’s own study shows that on the global map only 2.3% of the workforce in India has undergone formal skill training as compared to 96% in South Korea, 80% in Japan, 75% in Germany, 68% in UK and 52% in US. One can easily realise the situation where a country with more than 62% of its population in the working age group of 15 to 59 years is unable reap this demographic dividend – only 2.3% of its workforce is actually skilled. India is likely to lose its competitiveness in the global market if it does not take up skilling of its workforce on war footing especially as countries across the world, particularly the developed economies, are having ageing populations.


The study identified as many as 24 sectors were skill gaps exist and estimated that an incremental 109.7 million skilled people will be required by 2022. Out of the identified sectors, the top 10 like construction and real estate, retail, transport and logistics, beauty and wellness, furniture and furnishing, tourism and hospitality, textile and clothing, handlooms and handicraft, domestic help and private security services account for about 80% of the requirements.


Other areas where there is acute shortage of skilled force are electronics and IT hardware, food processing, vocational education, auto and auto components, healthcare, leather and leather goods, gems and jewellery, construction material and building hardware, IT and ITES, telecommunications, pharma and life sciences, BFSI, media and entertainment and agriculture. 


Apart from these there are several caste-based traditional livelihoods that need to be upgraded through adequate skill development to meet the needs of the modern market. Skill development should be for both educated unemployed and uneducated self-employed. The government can reach out to poor people through this programme and the beneficiaries can seek employment either in the country or abroad or become entrepreneurs. The government can engage the Railways, public sector undertakings (PSUs), private sector, and Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in the Skill Development programme.


Prime Minister Modi has recognized “Personal Sector” apart from the public and private sector that needs adequate attention. Then what stops him from doing enough for the “personal sector”?


The launch of the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency - MUDRA Bank – is a laudable effort. It is designed to refinance loans needed by an estimated 5.7 crore entrepreneurs in the unorganized sector and 24 crore families. The target in this financial year is to extend Rs 1.2 lakh crore to 1.25 crore borrowers. There are three categories for financing, namely Sishu (upto Rs 50,000), Kishore (Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh) and Tarun (Rs 5 lakh to 10 lakh). MUDRA Bank will also act as a regulator of micro-finance institutions (NFIs) and non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) to keep their rates of interest reasonably low.


However, not much publicity has been made to reach the people at the grassroots level. But the government claims that till date Rs 24,000 crore loans have been disbursed to 37 lakh beneficiaries.


Another people-oriented scheme is Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana under which each Member of Parliament can adopt and develop model villages in his/her constituency. They can make use of an identified 223 schemes of the central government and a number of schemes of state governments besides using the MP Area Development Fund to foster development of model villages. How many of MPs from the BJP have undertaken this effort with sincerity? Prime Minister Modi has been aggressive is setting up of 100 smart cities and other port cities in the country. He and BJP president Amit Shah should ask party leaders to work for model villages.


It is appreciable that the Modi government has retained the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme. But this should be modified for creation of durable assets in rural areas. Government should facilitate setting up of agro-based industries in rural areas by local unemployed youths, including small agri input business and rural godowns. Grain banks should be set up in village clusters for procurement, storage and distribution of food grains in local areas.


In today’s world, the liberalisation of the economy and market-based approach has become a necessity for growth. But economic growth should be inclusive and alleviate poverty. Therefore, focus should be given for people-oriented programmes and creation of adequate social security and safety nets for the poor. Farmers should get adequate return for their produces. Unemployed rural youth should be facilitated for setting up markets linking villages to cities.


The Modi government should focus on skill development, easy loans to the unemployed and setting up of model villages and other people-oriented programmes that cut across caste barriers, keeping in mind ‘Sab ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas’ if the ruling BJP intends to win the forthcoming elections to state legislatures in Assam, Punjab, UP and other states.   

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