Veil on job data spurs poser: How deep is the crisis? -Basant Kumar Mohanty

-The Telegraph

Demand for work under the MGNREGA was at its highest in the 2018-19 fiscal

The job crisis has deepened and become more commonplace during the last five years, according to officials familiar with employment data.

Consider this: Demand for work under the national job scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), was at its highest in the 2018-19 fiscal. Started in 2006 to provide a fallback employment source to vulnerable groups in rural India, the scheme guaranteeing up to 100 days of unskilled work to every household has emerged as the mainstay of employment opportunity for rural folks.

P.C. Mohanan, former acting chairperson of the National Statistical Council (NSC), termed the ever-increasing demand for unskilled work under MGNREGA as a symptom of agricultural distress in rural India. “There is already agricultural distress which would be pushing the people to depend on MGNREGA,” said Mohanan.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in 2015 described MGNREGA as a “testimony to the failure of previous governments”.

The BJP in its election manifesto of 2014 had said: “The country has been dragged through 10 years of jobless growth by the Congress-led UPA Government. Under the broader economic revival, the BJP will accord high priority to job creation and opportunities for entrepreneurship.”

If anything has emerged as a weapon for Opposition parties to mount an attack on the NDA government in these elections, it is the issue of job creation and the opaqueness of the employment data. In February this year, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the country’s “jobless growth was fast slipping into job-loss growth”.

Mohanan resigned from the NSC earlier this year in protest against the non-release of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation in 2017-18 on employment and unemployment. The report was approved by the NSC but was not released. The survey reportedly put the unemployment rate at 6.1 per cent, the highest since 1972-73.

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The Telegraph, 14 April, 2019,

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