December 1, 2014
Modern technology-based industries and services cannot generate employment on a massive scale. It is therefore imperative that this modern sector must rein in its adverse impacts on labour-intensive, natural resource-based livelihoods
Development was a key issue in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In his very first speech after taking over as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi asserted that his government is committed to carrying on development as a people’s movement. This, he has asserted, will draw upon India’s democratic, demographic and demand dividends. But are we genuinely moving towards organising development as a people’s movement while building on these strengths?
At the heart of democracy is access to information. We do have the vital Right to Information Act, but need to do much more since the public is being continually misled. To reap the demographic dividend, our youth should be well nourished. But what is the reality? The government’s statistics show that 28 per cent of school children were malnourished in 1993; this came down to 17 per cent by 1999 and declined further to 8 per cent by 2006. However, this is based on information provided by schools, and many of them are guilty of maintaining bogus records of enrolment and expenses towards the provision of mid-day meals. As a cross-check, we have the data provided by the carefully and professionally conducted National Family Health Survey. According to its very different and shocking results, 53 per cent of school children were malnourished in 1993. This came down slightly to 47 per cent by 1999 and changed a little by 2006, to 46 per cent.
To cater to India’s massive population of consumers, people should have adequate purchasing power, such as that enjoyed by people employed in the industries or services sector. Unfortunately, as the malnourishment statistics indicate, a vast majority of Indians are poor, with barely 10 per cent employed in the organised sector. We are being convinced that vigorous economic growth is generating substantial employment. But this is not so. When our economy was growing at 3 per cent per year, employment in the organised sector was growing at 2 per cent per year. As the economy began to grow at 7-8 per cent per year, the rate of growth of employment in the organised sector actually declined to 1 per cent per year since most of the economic growth was based on technological progress, including automation. At the same time, the increasing pressure of the organised sector on land, water, forest and mineral resources has adversely impacted employment in farming, animal husbandry and fisheries sectors. People who are being pushed out of these occupations are now crowding in urban centres. This is in turn leading to a decline in the productivity of the organised industries and services sector. Evidently, the ship of our development is sadly adrift.
What is development?