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Congress marks its founding day with controversy

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New Delhi: The Congress’s 130th birthday, which was observed by the party on Monday, could not have been a happy occasion. True, the party has lately shown faint signs of life after its humiliating drubbing in the 2014 general election.

It fared much better, for instance, in the Bihar assembly elections than it has done in recent years and has been able to establish itself in rural Gujarat for the time being at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) expense.

The Congress also performed satisfactorily in an assembly by-election and in several local bodies in another BJP-ruled state – Madhya Pradesh.

But these few swallows do not make a summer. In Bihar, the “national” party came a poor third to the two major regional parties – the Janata Dal-United and the Rashtriya Janata Dal – and there is little chance that it will be able to move ahead in the near future.

Elsewhere in the Hindi belt, such as in Uttar Pradesh, it occupies the third or even fourth place behind the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the BJP.

Since the scenario is virtually the same from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu via Odisha, where the regional parties rule the roost, the Grand Old Party can hardly be regarded as a national party anymore.

It is not all that difficult, however, in its time of distress, to pinpoint the root cause and even the very day – of the Congress’s decline and fall. The fateful date was June 26, 1975 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi suspended all civil rights by promulgating the emergency.

“Please do not destroy the foundation that the Father of the Nation, and your noble father, had laid down”, Sarvodaya leader Jayaprakash Narayan, told her. “You inherited a great tradition, noble values and a working democracy. Do not leave behind a miserable wreck of all that. It would take a long time to put all that together again.”

It did not take long, however, to put democracy back on track, for the people of India, in their great wisdom, evicted Indira Gandhi and the Congress from power in the general election of 1977.

Although the party and the mother-and-son duo of Indira and Sanjay Gandhi returned to the corridors of power three years later, the Congress was described as a party of “power brokers” by prime minister Rajiv Gandhi during the party’s centenary celebrations in 1985.

Unlike the present occasion, the party did have reasons to celebrate at the time, but the storm clouds were already gathering over its future. The Congress lost power in 1989 and despite occasional sojourns in office since then – between 1991 and 1996 and between 2004 and 2014 – it has become a pale shadow of its former self for having been unable to secure an absolute majority on the two occasions, let alone win 415 of the 543 elected Lok Sabha seats with a 48.1 percent vote share as in 1984.

Why had the downhill slide? Several reasons can be mentioned. One is apparently the belief among the voters because of their 1975 experience that the party cannot be entrusted with total power anymore.

It is not impossible that this belief has been strengthened by the admiration for Indira Gandhi expressed by her grandson, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. “She is my role model”, he has said, adding that he would have acted like her as when she faced “severe assault” by “destabilizing forces”, which was the standard explanation for her draconian measures in 1975.

It is noteworthy that while other Congressmen have been mildly critical of the Emergency – Jairam Ramesh said it was a mistake because it enabled the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to enter the mainstream – the party’s first family has been largely silent.

A second reason why the Congress is stumbling is its familiar trust with corruption. It has lost power twice in recent years because of its association with sleaze – in 1989 when the Bofors howitzer scandal brought down the Rajiv Gandhi government and in 2014 when the plethora of scams led to the Manmohan Singh government’s ouster.

In addition to its authoritarian trait, as demonstrated in 1975, the party always had to continuously battle the perception of being corrupt.

The third and perhaps the most crucial reason is its pathetic dependence on the Nehru-Gandhis which has turned a “mass movement into a feudal oligarchy”, to quote from Rajiv Gandhi’s 1985 speech.

Rajiv Gandhi was referring to people outside his family, but it is the latter which has saddled the party with the burden of feudalism. What is worse, unlike the charismatic members of the family of the past who had wide acceptability despite their faults because of the party’s tradition of secularism and their role in building democratic institutions – till 1975 – the present generation lacks the earlier wide appeal.

And the reason is that they have shown neither the intellectual prowess of Jawaharlal Nehru nor the grit of Indira Gandhi, which was best demonstrated during the liberation of Bangladesh and the worst in 1975.

Instead, the present mother-and-son duo of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi resembles a decaying zamindar family surrounded by a band of servile courtiers who are out of touch with the outside world.(Amulya Ganguli,IANS)

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Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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VOA
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. Pixabay

For people streaming in from rural areas around New Delhi, the first stop is a collection of busy city intersections where contractors select daily wage labor from the crowds of young and old waiting every morning to get work.

Many standing at these intersections say they get work for barely half the month. “I have the ability to work hard. I never turn down any work. But I would prefer to get a cleaner, permanent job,” says 29-year-old Tek Chand. “The problem is one day I have money to buy rations, the next day I don’t.” Like millions of others, he migrated from his village three years ago to seek work and a better life in the city.

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA
As India prepares for general elections on April 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being attacked by opposition parties for failing to make good on a promise he made in 2014 to create millions of jobs for India’s huge young population. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rebuts that criticism and says India is generating new opportunities as it becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies.

Job creation is a massive challenge for a nation with one of the world’s youngest populations — half the country’s 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25.

Recent data shows that joblessness has soared to record high levels. Opposition parties have made joblessness one of their principal election planks and have accused the prime minister of failing the estimated 8 to 10 million young people who enter the workforce every year.

The independent Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that unemployment reached 7.2 percent last month and that 11 million jobs were lost in 2018. With a working population of 500 million, that translates into more than 30 million people waiting for jobs. An unpublished official survey that showed unemployment at a 45-year-high has also been widely quoted by Indian media.

India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019.
India’s main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019. VOA

On the campaign trail, the head of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Modi’s principal challenger, talks repeatedly about a “jobs crisis.”

“Our government is refusing to accept that we have a massive crisis and potential disaster in front of us,” Gandhi told a group of university students in New Delhi recently, many who will be first time voters.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. It points to a recent industry report that jobs have been created in the medium and small sectors.

The BJP says millions of people have found work in the transport and infrastructure sectors or as delivery boys in booming online businesses as India becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. They point out that the issue is not jobs but livelihoods, and point to millions of people who are not counted in job data.

They are self-employed people like cab owner Chain Pal Singh. As the app based taxi business boomed, Singh’s friend, who operated a cab, persuaded him to quit his job and take out a loan to buy a car. His decision has paid off — in four years he has earned enough money to invest in two more cabs.

Singh says he is much better off than when he held a job. “I used to earn about $225 dollars a month. Now in some months I can earn almost double that amount. Its beneficial for me.”

Following defeats in key state elections in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament last month, “This truth has to be acknowledged. The unorganized sector has 80 to 85 percent of the employment.” He pointed to millions of commercial vehicles sold in recent years and questioned if they had not generated jobs for drivers.

Economists admit India’s large informal sector has made it difficult to calculate employment, but they say joblessness or underemployment remains the country’s biggest challenge. While scarcity of jobs is not a new problem, two disruptive economic steps in the last two years exacerbated the problem.

In 2016 a sweeping currency ban meant to tackle the problem of illegal cash, dried up jobs as it created huge currency shortages, particularly in small businesses and in the countryside. A poorly-implemented tax reform known as the Goods and Services Tax a few months later was another blow to businesses.

Meanwhile, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign, which aimed at making India a manufacturing hub like China, has made a slow start and sluggish labor-intensive sectors cannot cater to growing numbers of job seekers.

“We can’t keep patting ourselves on the back that we are the fastest growing economy specially if all these other indicators are not growing at a rate that will absorb the growing labor force,” says Santosh Mehrotra, a human development economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

Also Read: The Mental Health ‘Epidemic’: About Six in Ten Teen Say, They Feel A Lot Of Pressure To Get Good Grades

He points out that exports, another sector that created a number of jobs has also not been performing well.

As the campaign heats up, the opposition will try to keep the spotlight on jobs, or lack of them, even as the BJP tries to focus on national security following a recent confrontation with Pakistan. The final verdict on whether to give Prime Minister Modi a second term in office will be delivered by millions of voters when they cast their ballots. (VOA)

One response to “Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?”

  1. If the employment picture is bleak despite the construction of so many more Kilometers of roads, railways, air ports, bridges, toilets and other infrastructures compared to the five or even ten years of UPA government, imagine where we would be if we had UPA III government .