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April - May 2005

Business Forum

A Daunting Job

by Nikhil Gajendragadkar

India is looked upon as an emerging economy. After India opened up its economy nearly one and half decade ago, many changes have taken place. Though there is not a ‘bee line’ of foreign companies to invest in India, many multinational companies did enter and many more are showing keen interest in doing business in India. This did help in making Indian economy more vibrant.

Opening up of economy may have brought prosperity in various degrees to many in India; there is other side to the ‘Globalization’ scenario. Developed nations are looking at India (and China as well) as ‘Emerging Markets’. MNCs based in the West want a market to sell their commodities. They come to India to do business and to make money. They are not interested in welfare of the Indian society. They are not interested in creating jobs here. In fact, creation of jobs is a side effect.

American and British companies want to save money. That is why they outsource their work. Even educated and skilled labour in India is far cheaper than it is in the west. Outsourcing of jobs to India became a major issue in the last US Presidential election.This shows true face of western countries who propagate equal opportunities for all.

It is true, globalization has created many job opportunities, but they are limited to the IT, and services sector. But millions of people have lost their jobs in the name of ‘Cost Cutting’, ‘downsizing’, making a company more competitive, and so on. Similar scenario was observed in many parts of Europe after ‘89 .Unemployment rate is much high in the new entrants in EU. (Rumania, Poland etc.).Situation in Asia and Africa is much worse.

With population over a billion, variety of languages and cultures, the problems faced by India are enormous. India needs jobs created at many levels, in traditional as well as new industries. One needs special training to enter IT or Entertainment sector. But even today literacy rate in India is hovering around 50%. Graduates are a plenty but they are not computer-savvy. Semi-skilled and unskilled people awaiting an opportunity are in abundance. What about them?

Going by figures of the Planning Commission of India, there is a need of 76 million jobs to be created over next five years. How can India do that? The President of India, a noted scientist himself, has offered a solution. According to him, textile industry, bio-fuel generation, waste land development, water harvesting and recycling, bamboo cultivation, Fly-ash utilisation and health care and development of village knowledge centres, are areas which should be probed to create jobs. They have potential of creating 56 million jobs in next five years. During this period, new government jobs will be around 20 million at a rough estimate.

Number of unemployed people, many of them young, who have registered their names at Employment exchanges is around 4 crore(40 million).This is governments’ figure telling last year’s situation. Actual number can be very high considering there will be new addition in the last few months. Number of those not registered with employment exchanges will be huge. So even 76 million jobs will not be enough.

For job creation India must focus on its rural part. India’s rural area is totally neglected as far as health care is concerned. This sector can create jobs for over a 1.5 million doctors, and paramedics. Of course, there is need of investment, because we need to build clinics, primary health centres, and some kind of roads to reach these facilities.

Planting of bio-fuel plants on waste land, processing the fuel, and water harvesting can go hand in hand. These inter-related activities will boost agro sector and create millions of job opportunities in rural area. Utilisation of fly-ash for producing building material, bamboo cultivation, its commercial use are again labour intensive which can create millions of jobs.

What India requires is an appropriate technology to suit its needs rather than ultra modern or high technology. Information technology is essential. Taking it to rural areas, where 70 percent of India’s population lives, is a great challenge. ‘IT’ should serve small farmers of India. They are not interested in knowing what is happening at Wall Street. But they must know about weather, new techniques of cultivation and other related topics. A small farmer can’t afford a computer and internet connection; but a village can, with governmental support. That is where village knowledge centres can play a vital role.These centres should impart basic education to local children and should serve specific needs of village community.

Investment in all these sectors is the imperative part. Big corporate houses will not shed a paisa unless they are sure of some profit. A developing nation like India needs money to feed its ever growing population, and have to spend heavily to safeguard her sovereignty. This paradox is taking its toll. Increasing number of malnourished children is just one example.

How Indian government is going to face the challenge is the most important question. People at the helm need to take an innovative approach. There are many people and NGO’s working in above mentioned areas. Govt. must pool their expertise. People’s participation more than private sectors’ and governmental support and not interference are most crucial things. Government should provide money enough to run the show and make participants able to support themselves.

Presenting a budget is one vital instrument to lay down policies and specify thrust area. But if proper action is not taken, it would be reduced to a mere annual economic paper exercise. People of India are eagerly waiting to see what government is going to do. Percentages, ratio to GDP are useless words for millions. They want simple jobs which will bring joy to their lives.

Nikhil Gajendragadkar is a senior journalist from India.
He also teaches at Journalism & Communications department of the University of Pune (A prominent city in the state of Maharashtra in western India) and few other journalism institutes.

He writes extensively on entertainment media, media and society and socio-political subjects for Marathi and English periodicals in India and for International magazines.

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