Unemployment as a Political Weapon
Violence that took place on the eve of FKJGP’s rally on 28th October diverted the public attention from the issue of unemployment and momentarily roused the fears of resurgence of ethnic tensions in the state.
It is reassuring however to note that not only the organization that led the rally but also several other indigenous organizations condemned the unfortunate incidents. Enlightened civil society and alert administration are essential to prevent the recurrence of such events.
Measures such as ban on the public rallies are no solution to the problem.
The citizens have the right to raise public issues and represent their concerns to the government. It is the responsibility of the governments to listen to the public voices and constructively engage them in finding solutions.
Unemployment is indeed a burning issue agitating the minds of the public, especially the youth, across the nation. Indian economy has grown comparatively at a faster phase after India has gone for liberalization and the country has witnessed the raise of the multibillionaires in the recent decades.
But the economic growth seems to have done little to increase employment opportunities for the other people. Barring some sectors such as the IT and services, employment in many sectors of economy has virtually stagnated. India has been witnessing what the economists would call ‘jobless growth’.
Privatization of the public sector units, non-filling of vacancies in government sector, development of capital intensive industries, and growing mechanization have led to dwindling of employment opportunities. The government policies such as the demonetization and the lockdown worsened the problem of employment.
The official reports themselves show that unemployment has been increasing in the country. It is a different matter that the central government is denying the official reports and trying to make the nation believe that their efforts to expand infrastructural development and the granting of Mudra loans have created lakhs of sustainable jobs in the country.
It is a different matter that the government has not come out with a systematic study to prove its contention that unemployment is no big issue. In the years to come, the global recession is likely to affect the economic growth and adversely affect the unemployment situation in the country.
Unemployment is no more a community or regional problem. It is gripping all parts of the country. The situation may not be that grim in some parts of the country where major industrial and business centers are concentrated. But in the regions like the northeast, which do not have many industries, the problem of educated unemployment is bound to increase.
Factors like population growth, immigration, underdevelopment, dwindling industrial and government jobs, growing corruption, rapidly increasing privatization of land and other common resources, etc., are bound to worsen the employment situation in the region.
It is the responsibility of the governments to identify the sectors where there is scope for increasing the job opportunities and provide necessary infrastructure and training to enable the youth gain sustainable livelihood. The government apathy or failure to address the problem of unemployment is likely to compel the people hit the streets in the years to come.
Here it is necessary to realize that unemployment problem has also been a political weapon for different organizations and parties for achieving different political goals. The Nazis used it in Germany to whip hatred against the Jews. The white racists in different western countries have been holding the colored migrants as responsible for growing unemployment.
In our own country, several communal, regional and ethnic based parties and organizations have used the unemployment problem to settle scores with the communities they viewed as their ‘natural’ enemies or competitors. These organizations and parties rouse the sentiments and fears, and make the people believe that poverty and unemployment among their people is because of other communities inhabiting in the same territory or region.
They make the people believe that once their territory or the state is rid of the outsiders, problems like unemployment would automatically disappear. In Maharashtra, Shiva Sena targeted south Indians and Biharis. In Telangana the people from Andhra were held responsible for unemployment of the youth in Telangana.
In northeastern states, all problems are attributed to illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. But from the experience around the world and within India, it is evident that attacks on other communities only increase social tensions and don’t benefit any communities in the long run.
Unemployment is not a problem that gets resolved with political measures like the formation of new states, introduction of the Sixth Schedule, or imposing restrictions on the movement of the citizens. Such prescriptions at times create more problems than what they seek to resolve.
In 1970s Late Jayaprakash Narayan organized and mobilized the youth on the issue of unemployment, price rise and corruption in public life. The Nav Nirman Andolan led by JP attracted many youth leaders who subsequently became important political leaders in the country. Of late, Rahul Gandhi has raised the issue of unemployment and has been attracting the attention of the youth to his Bharat Jodo Yatra].
Rahul Gandhi holds the economic policies of Modi government responsible for the increasing unemployment problem. In his view, the pro-corporate policies of the central government has destroyed small and medium scale industries in the country, and facilitated the growth of capital intensive industries which have little potentiality to expand job opportunities for the poor.
Rahul Gandhi has been pleading for small and medium sector industries to expand the job opportunities. He also emphasizes on the need to increase budgetary allocations for education and health to address the problem of unemployment.
One is not sure whether he is really serious about the revival of the welfare economics of Nehru and Indira Gandhi, or whether he is only working for the revival of the fortunes of the Congress party. Given the hold of the corporate sector on the national economy, one is not sure whether political leaders like Rahul Gandhi are able to make any difference.
Unlike the welfare economists who seek to find solution for unemployment problem within the capitalist framework, the socialists and communists hold the view that unemployment problem is integral to the very nature of the capitalist economic system, and that there cannot be a solution to the problems of poverty, unemployment, and price rise, as long as class divisions and class exploitation exist.
As the surplus value created by workers is expropriated by the capitalists, the purchasing power of the masses will remain limited. Hence in capitalist system there will always be a gap between production and consumption. This gap leads to overproduction and leads to recession and unemployment problem. There is no way that capitalism can resolve the problem.
The capitalists in fact use the unemployed workers to reduce the labor costs and increase the profits. Penetration of market economy even in the peripheral areas has led to the emergence of classes even in tribal societies, creating unemployment problem. After the Russian Revolution, the communists have demonstrated the possibility of putting an end to the unemployment problem by initiating structural changes.
However, the mistakes that the communist leaders have committed led to the restoration of capitalism in the erstwhile socialist countries. The socialist Russia that encouraged the people to have children to fill the growing need for labor force has now been reeling under the problems of poverty, unemployment and war.
To sum up, unemployment is not a problem that can be addressed by a mere change of governments. It cannot be resolved through protectionism or ethnic pogroms. Unemployment is a structural problem that can be addressed only by bringing radical changes in economic policies that the countries have been following.
Every political party / organization that seeks political power uses unemployment as a weapon to win over the people. Their intentions may be genuine. But in the absence of a clear understanding of local, national and international factors that aggravate the problem, it will not be possible to resolve the unemployment problem.
The people should be educated enough to distinguish between the quacks and the doctors, and seek remedy for their problems only from those who understand the nature of the disease and have the solution to address the problem. Let us not allow the unemployment problem to become a stepping stone for greedy politicians to make their political career at our cost.
[H. Srikanth is the Professor of Political Science Department, NEHU]
(Images from different sources)
Mahabahu.com is an Online Magazine with collection of premium Assamese and English articles and posts with cultural base and modern thinking. You can send your articles to email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org ( For Assamese article, Unicode font is necessary)