Illustration by Peali Dutta Gupta
Illustration by Peali Dutta Gupta
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Five years on, the reality hasn’t changed for young Indians. Subsidies and hand-outs are all that they’ve got.

By general consensus, the economic issues that have brought down three BJP governments are farmer distress and the lack of jobs. The two are linked, of course. If youngsters could get jobs in offices and factories, there would be fewer people trying to make their living on unviable farms, and their wages would supplement family incomes. But factory jobs are hard to come by, and English-speaking upper castes monopolise offices.

If you migrate to the city, life is hard. Villagers in cities work on construction sites: The experienced and those with some training become masons and fitters, or carpenters and electricians. Many work as poorly-paid watchmen, or as drivers. Their wives are either back home in the village, or work as domestic help in the city. The men share single-room sleeping quarters, walk to work because a bus fare is unaffordable, and live on surprisingly little, managing to send money periodically to their families. Every once in a while, they borrow from their employers or get money through an informal pooling scheme to repay a marriage loan for which the farm has been mortgaged or to build a room in a city slum, one step at a time: First pucca walls of brick to replace mud, two years later a proper roof to replace tin or asbestos, and still later a proper floor. The process can take a decade, with loan instalments a monthly reality. Even with such bare-bones existence, capital accumulation takes place in the city, not in the village.

A picture of TN Ninan, chairman of Business Standard Private LimitedThe lucky ones manage eventually to give their children a post-school diploma so that they can aspire to jobs one or two notches higher up the ladder — as car mechanics, hotel housekeeping staff, delivery boys, or someone’s gofer. Young women may get to stand behind a shop counter, or find work in a mid-market boutique. Aspiring to more than that yields only frustration because their spoken English does not measure up.

They are mostly at the mercy of their employer — without job security or medical cover. The official minimum wage is usually fiction. Life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and (often) short”, as Hobbes put it. And so any government job is better than almost any open market job: The pay is better, you belong, and there will be a pension. But the government has started cheating by contracting out work or hiring only temp staff — temp in name because they are engaged for years together.


Also read: BJP is on a better wicket in parliamentary elections than in state elections


Trapped in this reality, you look with hope at a politician who comes along and promises to change all that: 10 million new jobs every year, no need to touch someone’s feet to get an introduction to an employer. And fix the corrupt guys who have made the system what it is. But five years later, the reality has changed little or not at all. If someone now starts an agitation for job reservations, especially for your caste, you go to the rally or join a procession in the hope that something will change. If a party promises to write off your loan, it gets your vote. But you still have an unviable farm and no certainty about a good price at harvest time; and reservations don’t deliver many jobs.

Bertrand Russell observed that most men live lives of quiet desperation. But the young are not given to resignation. So what do you do in what Katherine Boo has called the under-city, from where the comforts and pleasures of the over-city lie across an unbridgeable chasm? Group identity could give your life more meaning, so you find your way to the fringes of the political world. Perhaps join a gang on the look-out for cattle traders (there is religious sanction, and also money to be made from seizing cattle — or emotional release in beating up someone). We can blame them, but what does our politics have to offer them? So we have what Swaminathan Aiyar has called a part of the “New Delhi consensus”: Subsidies and hand-outs in the hope that these will buy votes and keep people quiet. The harsh fact is that India’s political economy has only palliatives to offer, no real solutions.

Separate fact from fiction, the real from the fake going viral on social media, on HoaXposed .


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8 COMMENTS

  1. It cannot be easy for anyone, because money does not grow on trees. But in Narendra Modi’s case even the intention was missing. The compassion for the poor was missing, otherwise some decisions just wouldn’t have been taken. In any case, isn’t it rather late in the day to sound defensive for Modi?

  2. Only politicians minting money & Offer salary hike to Goverment employ without work to enjoy life and to keep quite and to let politician complete their tenure leading to corruption voters have no option once congress and realise corruption and switch to BJP. And viceversa.

  3. Suggest a think tank to collect suggestions from economists, sociologists, social workers and activists to discuss and recommend a course of action over the next five years. Before independence a Bombay Plan was proposed by eminent businessmen and economists of Indian Merchants Chamber. A similar exercise is necessary.

  4. Actually you know what are problem is :we no longer deserve to call ourselves descendants of great culture, pioneers in our fields because it’s the mentality of you people which has brought this country to such a helpless state. Sir I am studying in an engineering college yet never did I ask the government to give me a job. What people today need to realize is that such a large population can’t be spoon fed and hence they need to venture out in New domains but we want everything served on our plates. Yes life is difficult and they earn little but that’s a problem with nearly every other country or else labour wages saturate and things become very costly again and so increases inflation which will again become a topic to lambast Modi. So wake up, stop believing in a rosy world, take help of various yojnas and gear up for challenges ahead or else don’t create questions, we already have enough. Please give possible solutions on MyGov app. Generally people have questions but answers are what one require.

    • Well said Abhishek. Mr. Ninan….I have never heard any esteemed journalist or politician..ask the question…what do Indian people procreate so intensely. Look at fertility rates in rural North India and south India. Your answer lies there….irresponsible population growth is a bane!!! Besides having left India 30 yrs ago….i find things seem different in the at 5 years when i return. Infrastructure is fast improving, sanitation has improved, younger people seem entrepreneurial, there is a trend towards self-reliance among youngsters. BJP under Modi has taken genuine steps to improve a country with a lethargic, slothful and irresponsible culture!

  5. Indians have voted for seventy years. They know pigs don’t fly, take electoral promises, something as other worldly as fifteen lacs in each account from stuff lying abroad, a lot of it belonging to the political class, with a cellar of salt. The rage and frustration is not that that delivery was decent but the promises were over the top. The painful fact is that Kuchh hua hi nahin. Does any Indian honestly know the rate at which the economy is growing. Job creation is so dismal, sometimes negative, official statistics are no longer being compiled. Added to that is adventurism like demonetisation, ignoring Governance 101 : Do no harm. The social fabric being snipped with a pair of scissors. Not that incumbents do not get reelected, although that is more difficult in Delhi than in the states. Lots of voters are trying to figure out what actually got done in the last five years.

  6. A gripping narrative about India’s state of the ‘real’ economy by T N Ninan. This explains a lot about why farmers and people in general are upset with the Modi regime, a regime foisted upon India based on promises, promises, promises. The Modi government rarely misses a chance to trumpet its achievement of ‘making India’ the fastest growing economy in the world, but fails to note that what they’re creating is jobless growth as Raghuram Rajan recently said. The recent poll results in the three states of MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh should give enough ideas to Modi and Shaw and the RSS that Mandir, Masjid, Money, Modi cannot always win polls.

  7. There is not an example of an exceptional leader who has transformed a fledgling system from the ivory tower. To turn vision (if there was any in the first place) required ‘management by walking around’ (MBWA) as Modi entered the highest office: going to villages, visiting government offices and talking to clerks, having a good chat with people who run institutions (with whatever little expertise they have) that provide basic amenities such as drinking water etc. However, Modi chose the route of PBFA – publicity by flying around [the world] to satiate tonnes of ego stuffed in his 56” inches chest. Never did he stop and considered the possibility that Pappu (of GOP) might catch up. Never did he stop and reflect that ‘India Shining’ was a debacle because there had been no execution. In the end, if Modi gets a कैतली (tea kettle) in 2019, it is because when ‘Pappu’ started coming of age, Modi just got distracted and started adopting (bad) tactics forgetting his vision for the country (if there was any in the first place).

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