UP In The Air

India’s most populated state – Uttar Pradesh – has been reeling with chronic unemployment since ages. The recent debacles in the form of GST and demonetisation have put hitherto unprecedented stress on the already struggling job market. RAJENDRA KUMAR reports from Lucknow

By any yardstick, Uttar Pradesh has been a sad story. Rather, tragic. Once an epicentre of religion, philosophy, art, music, industries and what not, the state is not even a shadow of its former self, so to speak. It is not for nothing that the state is not counted among the most backwards of states that is staring at disastrous unemployment for its youth.
Recent data suggests that the unemployment rate in the state has touched 7.4 per cent that is much higher than the national average of 5 per cent. This is an appalling situation, made more so by the fact that while there are over 1.5 lakh vacancies for doctors, engineers, nurses, policemen and who not, there has been no concrete effort to even start the recruitment process leave alone completing it. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has promised five lakh government jobs in the next five years. Economists are tearing their hair as to how would that figure be achieved in the real world.
It is rather a matter of concern that a state that gave as many as five prime ministers to the Republic ended up in such a lamentable state. Uttar Pradesh – then United Province – was not in such a sorry state before Independence as it was a base of several heavy and medium industries, not to mention small and household ones. Cities like Varanasi, Kanpur, Agra, Aligarh, Meerut, Saharanpur and Mirzapur were great industrial towns in their own might. Other districts had their own handloom and household industries.
However, still, the majority of employment used to come from agriculture and allied activities, for which Uttar Pradesh was sort of an epicentre. Blessed with the fertile Doab of Ganges and Yamuna, the state could produce almost any crop, and several times in a year. Down the years, its rank has slid to 11th.
To add insult to the injury, it ranks a lowly 19th in terms of law & order, health and environment. In terms of investment, of the available data for 21 states, UP ranks penultimate from the bottom, at 20th. The cumulative effect is that it languishes even in terms of unemployed youths. Of the 12 crore unemployed youths, the state has the lion’s share. Under the circumstances, the 1.5 lakh vacant posts for government jobs are nothing short of a mockery. Numerous announcements in this regard by the state government have come to nought.
Looking at the economic history of the state, one can see that most of the industries that were set following Independence were done during the rule of chief ministers Govind Ballabh Pant, Sampoornanand, Chandrabhanu Gupta and Narayan Dutt Tiwari. Sugar mills were established, and existing ones expanded. However, last 30 years has been the saga of mismanagement as one after another industry shut down under various pretexts, including several dozen sugar mills.
There are several factors behind this apathy. Chronic undersupply of electricity, atrocious law & order situation, corruption in executive and extortion has scared away any possible investor.
This, years of chronic unemployment, means that youths have migrated to cities outside of UP for better future, including to Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. This is not a life they chose for themselves, but were forced to. Says senior leader of CPI, Ashok Mishra, “The unemployment situation has turned explosive in the state. It could be seen from the number of youths who turns up for exams whenever vacancies are created. This is indicative that we cannot sweep this under the carpet anymore. This is especially a warning for the Yogi government that had made promises that it never intended to keep.”
How did it all come to this? Economists say that lack of proper investment environment and crumbling infrastructure means that no one wants to invest here. Government departments are under the control of contractors and mafia who have sucked the institutions dry. They have done it in collusion with those in power. As a result, most of the constructions are on paper only with little to show on the ground. A few projects that saw the light of the day somehow were of such inferior built quality that they gave way well before their expiry dates. Several volumes can be written about the corruption and undercutting that has marred this state. At this time there is hardly any sector where mafia in collusion with people in power have not taken the full control. There are ration mafia, drug mafia, education mafia, transport mafia, sand mafia, so on and so forth. All of these are responsible for the non-existence of infrastructure.
Under the circumstances it is only natural that the state has seen a spike in unemployment down the years. What is surprising, however, is that it is the educated unemployed who make the majority of those seeking employment. Among those unemployed, 25 per cent are between the age group 20-24 whereas those between 25-29 years form 17 per cent of the total unemployed population. If we extrapolate this number, the resulting number of unemployed youths runs into crores. That’s a scary picture. What’s worse is that this is cumulating into a monstrous figure. Half of those looking for jobs are females. Of those unemployed, those who have completed matriculation or senior secondary form 15 per cent of the number. Those with some kind of technical education form 16 per cent of the group. Needless to say that there is absolutely no synergy between those imparting technical education and the industry.
There is another worrisome trend that has come to the light recently. Data suggest that those who are educated actually wait for better jobs rather than taking up jobs that they consider below their dignity. They form 50 per cent of the total number. Another 50 per cent are those who take up whatever comes their way and then wait for better opportunity. This better opportunity is basically a euphemism for government jobs, which are not materialising lately.

Government in its defence says that it will not only bring rs five lakh crore worth of investment in the next five years, it will also assure 20 lakh jobs

Government in its defence says that it will not only bring Rs five lakh crore worth of investment in the next five years, it will also assure 20 lakh jobs in the private sector. These claims were made by Satish Mahana, minister for industrial development in the Yogi government. Mahana insists that the government is focusing on sustainable growth. Purvanchal and Bundelkhand, which lack in industries and industrial infrastructure, are the priority. He also talks about the singlewindow system for the clearance of projects. Other sops include various tax breaks and concessions on stamp duties, apart from other subsidies. “We are creating a conducive environment for investment. There is a detailed plan for developing infrastructure, which is already under implementation. We will also assure round the clock power supply for the industries. Law & order has seen marked improvement. All these will create better environment for investment,” he added in good measure.
Economists also suggest that this climbing number is a warning bell for the Yogi government. BJP was propelled to power on the votes of youths who were unscrupulous enough to put faith in their promises. Now that promise looks floundering, BJP needs to be wary.
Says Ashutosh Mishra, a political analyst, “Unemployed youths have put their faith in the current dispensation. They expect a miracle. That miracle can only be achieved through promotion of small industries and focus on skill development. The government needs to prioritise these. Vocational training is a must, after which comes integration with industry.”
There are others who maintain that while the government talked a lot about developing skills and what not, there is pretty little to show for it.

Unfinished Projects Can Produce 2.5 Lakh Jobs

Economists suggest that even if half the projects in the pipeline are approved and implemented, it will create more than 2.5 lakh jobs. This has come out in a study conducted by The Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM). The study was sponsored by ASSOCHAM following the elections last year. The study suggested that between the years 2012 and 2017 the state attracted maximum investment. However, most of the projects are stuck at various stages. They are stuck in various departments. However, most of them are stuck either due to lack of land or environmental clearances. Most of the projects that are stuck are from the irrigation department. Then comes the mining industry. This has spiked the rates of gravel and sand, leading to the overall rise in the price of construction. This has stopped even those projects that were passed and were in the initial phases of implementation. Even in terms of stuck projects, 2012 was the best year when around 52.5 per cent of the projects were stuck compared to 70.2 per cent now. This figure is highest among all the states in the Union. ASSOCHAM on its part has asked the state government to create a committee just to take care of stuck projects in order to expedite them.
Then of course there is ‘One District, One Project’ scheme that was launched with much fanfare. This project aspires to promote traditional industry and craft in every district of Uttar Pradesh. One product in each district has been chosen for promotion. A budget of Rs 250 crore has been earmarked for the project. Under this project, government will focus on branding, packaging and marketing of that product from the stipulated district. This, according to the government, will assure good price to the manufacturer. The chief minister believes that this project will deal with the dual menace of unemployment and migration by providing employment to the youths in their own district.