Faced with the challenge of ensuring gainful employment for the many thousand migrants that have returned to Uttarakhand, the state government is hoping they utilise their skills to become self-employed. Basically, such persons have no other choice, unless they join those who are going back to their former places of employment. Sadly, if these persons had the ability to be self-employed, they would have not left for other states in the first place. The thinking behind the self-employment push is that, having worked elsewhere, they will have learned business skills necessary to run their own establishments. The hope is that young people would launch their own businesses if they are provided the necessary incentives and facilities. It is not clear how much already functioning businesses and industries have been consulted on what is necessary, for the bureaucrats tasked with making the rules and regulations certainly have little idea of how it is done.
It was in the late sixties and seventies that India’s economy developed to the point where women were expected to become financially independent and men to become self-employed. This was particularly because traditional jobs were very few, especially for the middle class, as compared to earlier, because of the sharp rise in population and spread of education. In fact, this was partially the reason for the expansion of small scale industries. Much of it was due to a number of subsidies and concessions. This growth, however, did not lead on to greater things because of a suffocating regulatory regime.
The challenge continues to this day. Theoretically, the opportunities are enormous, but the business culture has not spread among those required to take the plunge. Certainly, very few opt to launch their own businesses and give first priority to government jobs and ‘security’. Even fewer have the training to undertake this venture. Mostly those who come from risk-taking sections of society take the plunge. Many of these come a cropper because of the monopolistic and closed nature of the market.
What is required is proper mentoring from as young as possible and intelligent patronage from the biggest buyer, the government. Also, a social revolution is required to transform the culture of the ‘poor’ to that of the working class. It is happening by itself to some extent but, if the phenomenon is properly understood, it can be hastened. The implications of this are too many to be fully described here. Suffice to say, lip service and bogus schemes, launched merely for publicity purposes in the expectation that most of the pandemic migrants will anyway return to their original jobs, are not enough. Realistically, it would be better to focus on reviving the enterprises that already exist and are under the Corona cloud.