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Interpreting Stats


Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge quoted statistics in the House to back the claim that NDA policies had led to an increase in rural unemployment. The data was probably from that which is alleged to have been suppressed by the government leading to the resignations of a couple of members from the National Statistical Commission. Kharge claimed that rural unemployment was something like a mere 6 percent in 2011, while it had jumped to around 20 percent in the present. He obviously was blaming the policies of the NDA Government related to the agrarian sector for this purported increase. Whether these are the actual figures is not clear, as the statistics have not been released, thus far.
Politics aside, it is important for decision makers to deal with economic issues with a sense of responsibility and long term perspective, because these extend well beyond the five year terms of governments. It is roughly estimated that sixty to fifty percent of India’s population is dependent on the agriculture and related sectors for its livelihood. This is in contrast to the 3 to 5 percent farming population in the developed countries. Even there, most governments have to provide massive subsidies directly and indirectly to keep farming sustainable. In other words, to claim that, in 2011, some 94 percent of those in the farming sector in India had employment is a misrepresentation of facts. They were engaged in the agrarian sector, true; that they managed a sustainable livelihood is patently untrue. Handouts like MNREGA can help them keep their bodies and souls together, maybe, but it is only disguised unemployment in a big way.
If, however, more exact indicators are examined, it is obvious that the transformation of the Indian Economy will lead to a shift in employment patterns, with people entering the other sectors such as industry, infrastructure, services, etc. This is what happened in the developed economies over a century ago. It involves periods of hardship, which cannot be averted and need to be purposefully dealt with by all concerned.
Of course, the changing nature of the market, enhanced use of technology and environmentally friendly practices can provide a more sustainable livelihood to the farmers, but a majority of them will still need to make the shift. Many of them will face unemployment during this process as they learn new skills and learn to adapt. It may seem harder in a democracy, but in the long term, the evolutionary process works better as people know the choices they need to make. That there are such large numbers of people making the shift indicates this process is well underway. Scoring political points is one thing, being aware of the facts is quite another.