Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: Reuters)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo: Reuters)

Leaked NSSO report revives jobs debate, puts BJP on the back foot

  • Report says govt failed to create jobs; opposition demands debate during budget session of Parliament
  • The leaked NSSO report pegged the country’s unemployment rate in 2017-18 at 6.1%—a 45-year-high

NEW DELHI : Just months ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections, the growing debate over jobs is back to haunt the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The immediate trigger was a report by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) which pegged India’s unemployment rate in 2017-18 at 6.1%—a 45-year-high. The contents of the report were published in a news report by the Business Standard on Thursday, which happened to be the first day of the budget session of Parliament.

The opposition led by the Congress party sought to corner the government on Thursday and is now proposing to force a debate on jobs in the ongoing session. Key opposition parties raised the issue in an all-party meet organized by the government.

The government on its part, in a briefing chaired by Rajiv Kumar, vice chairman of NITI Aayog, engaged in damage control by claiming that what had been revealed was based on an interim report.

The news report said the labour force participation rate too fell to 36.7% in 2017-18 from 39.11% in 2011-12. It added that the unemployment rate among rural men aged 15-29 climbed to 17.4% from 5% during the same period. The report echoed the opposition’s claim that the government has failed to create enough jobs and that the implementation of demonetization in November 2017 hit the economy as well as employment prospects.

The revival of the debate just before the forthcoming general election has put the BJP on the back foot, especially after two non-official members of the National Statistical Commission (NSC) including the acting chairman of the apex statistical body P.C. Mohanan resigned, claiming the Union government was trying to suppress the data.

“NoMo Jobs! The Fuhrer promised us 2 Cr jobs a year. 5 years later, his leaked job creation report card reveals a National Disaster. Unemployment is at its highest in 45 yrs. 6.5 Cr youth are jobless in 2017-18 alone. Time for NoMo2Go," Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted with the hashtag “HowsTheJobs".

At a press conference in its party headquarters on Thursday, former Union minister Anand Sharma accused the government of “hiding" the data which showed that “demonetization dealt a blow to the unorganized sector and jobs".

Most opposition parties have now demanded that there should be a detailed debate and discussion in Parliament on the issue of lack of job creation in India. An emboldened opposition plans to link it to demonetization and implementation of the goods and services tax.

During the all-party meet called by the government for the smooth functioning of both the Houses of Parliament, Congress and Trinamool Congress lawmakers took the lead in raising the issue of jobs.

BJP leaders argue that the methodology to calculate job creation is faulty and does not capture all the sectors. Even as BJP leaders admit that job creation is an important challenge, they point out that the data does not look at job creation in the informal sector.

“The criteria for job creation does not capture all the sectors and the methodology is incomplete. There are various gaps in the job creation calculations. It does not look at self-employment and entrepreneurship. More than 12 crore people have benefitted from the Mudra loan scheme of the government. The EPFO data shows people coming into the formal sector from the informal sector but it does not get captured in the job calculation data," said Gopal Krishna Agarwal, BJP’s national spokesperson on economic issues.

Politically, the issue—a key factor in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s rout in 2014 —is likely to pose similar worries for the NDA in 2019.

Prashant K. Nanda contributed to this story.

Close