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Future Choices

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As the campaigning for the Karnataka assembly elections gathers momentum, Congress leaders, particularly Rahul Gandhi, stress on the unemployment issue quite frequently. If they are to be believed, the policies of the Modi Government have increased unemployment rates. Demonetisation, the introduction of GST, privatization, crony capitalism, etc., are cited as the primary reasons for this. They do not exactly quote from any sources – authentic or otherwise – but go on anyway because there certainly are unemployed persons around and, if they can be made to believe Modi is responsible for their woes, they might vote against the BJP. Among Rahul Gandhi’s proposed solutions is a universal basic income, free rides on buses for women, a dole for the unemployed, etc.

It is true that certain kinds of jobs are disappearing, particularly those provided by government. At the same time, however, a vast number of new and potential jobs have emerged as the economy shifts into another gear. It is impossible and suicidal for any government to forcibly keep outdated jobs going merely for the sake of ‘providing employment’. People’s income and social mobility can only increase if they learn new skills and take advantage of the opportunities provided by a transforming economy. The poor and disadvantaged can be provided assistance in this through government programmes, but in no way can the economy be frozen in time merely because it hurts certain sections of society. (This was tried by President Trump in the US at a very different level and the impact on that nation’s economy was loss of its competitive edge in the global context.)

While at the blue collar level, there is vast scope in the services and local manufacturing sectors, India’s middle-classes are seeing an expansion of opportunities that are being taken by those who have managed to acquire the requisite skills. Of course, many are more ambitious than able and naturally feel frustrated, but better education and training can bridge this gap. It will not do, however, to scuttle the process entirely by taking off in populist directions merely in the hope of winning elections. The ongoing change is reflected in the fact that, except in areas of high S&T, all the future job opportunities are expected to emerge in the Third World, particularly India. And the biggest payback is available to those with the gumption to become entrepreneurs – a spirit that has been sought to be encouraged by the Modi Government from the very start of its tenure. Why settle for the past when there is a future ahead?