Pakodanomics of our times

Indians everywhere in the world are hardworking, high wage earners. Sadly, today, we have no jobs worth working hard for in our own country

Representational image
Representational image

Herald View

“If they do not have bread, let them eat cake.”

Nothing could have been more savage than that one statement by French queen Marie Antoinette in response to reports of poverty and lack of employment among her French subjects. One could never fathom that that heartless comment would ever be topped at any time anywhere in the world because everyone knew about the consequences and eventual price that the French monarchy had to pay for their cold-blooded callousness towards their hungry masses. But a new era was yet to dawn on the world and India was waiting in the wings for Narendra Modi to storm centre-stage in 2014. Then, of course, Marie Antoinette found her competitor - Modi’s 21st century comment – to paraphrase, if Indians do not have jobs, let them fry pakodas – is greatly worthy of the French queen in the 21st century.

Is frying pakodas a job? Umm, well, yes. That is if you do not consider the rising prices of oil, flour, potatoes and other vegetables, real estate and transport costs that might leave the pakoda fryer, with perhaps an average family of five, with not the Rs 200 that Modi proclaimed he would earn at the end of the day but barely 10 percent or less than that amount. Even at the time Modi made that outrageous declaration, every pakoda fryer in India was seeking a better life for his family and hoping at least his children would find suitable jobs to break them out of the cycle of gruelling work, growing debts and insurmountable poverty that came from having no social security or organised employment.

But it was not a vain hope. For the previous decade had seen India’s economy growing by leaps and bounds with millions of Indians being lifted out of poverty, loads of money in middle class pockets, taking the pakoda fryer in its sweep.

But now, according to data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), it is quite the opposite - millions of Indians have quite exited the labour force and have stopped looking for jobs altogether. So what are these people doing? If they have taken to frying pakodas to subsist, it can only be described as the abject failure of the Modi government to create two crore jobs annually as promised in 2014. Asking people to generate their own employment is a very lazy kind of governance wherein dispensations feel no compulsion to commit to the well-being of the people they have promised to care for and represent. Every state government, according to available data, has vacancies in the thousands. Why are these not being filled up if there are truly so many millions out of a job? Nor can the government depend on the private sector alone to create jobs if they do not provide a conducive atmosphere for the same. The exit of automobile company after automobile company from India is a grim reminder of not just loss of jobs but also the lack of the promised ease of business, corruption and redtapism that is compelling multinational firms to exit. Both organised and unorganised sectors have been suffering ever since Modi’s infamous demonetisation programme. It has been a body blow to the economy from which the nation has yet to recover. Given that we have among the largest contingent of young workers who were expected to drive India’s growth story, the current situation could be apocalyptic both in our short and long term futures.

Indians everywhere in the world are hardworking, high wage earners. Sadly, today, we have no jobs worth working hard for in our own country

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