The Maratha Agitation for Reservations

The Marathas, one of the dominant castes of Maharashtra, who constitute probably around 32–35% of the State’s population (this is only an estimate, as there has been no caste based census in India since 1932), are agitating for reservations once again. Earlier, during 2016 and 2017, they had organised 52 silent marches. This time, the agitation has been violent, and the agitators have attacked buses, stopped train services and blocked highways.

Over the last few years, several other dominant castes in other states, like the Patels (or Patidars) of Gujarat, the Jats of Haryana and the Gujjars of Rajasthan, have raised similar demands. They are all demanding that they be included in the ‘Other Backward Classes’ category and be given reservations.

Reservations in the Constitution

Because of competitive populism and electoral calculations, no major political party in any state has opposed this demand, even though this demand changes the entire logic for reservations on the basis of which this policy measure was specifically included in the Constitution by our Constitution framers. The Constitution of India, in its Article 15 (4) and 16 (4), clearly allows the state to make special provisions, including reservation in any post in the services under the state, “for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes”. Elaborating on these provisions, the Supreme Court of India has ruled (State of Kerala v. N.M. Thomas) that they are not exceptions to the equality guaranteed under Articles 14, 15(1) and 16(1), but rather are aimed at achieving the equality guaranteed under these articles.i The Mandal Commission in the late 1980s too had adopted the criterion of “social and educational backwardness” as the basis for making its recommendations.ii

Dr Ambedkar and our Constitution framers had, therefore, envisioned reservations as a scheme to foster social inclusion, social equality and social justice. It was a programme to cement the notion of citizenship. As Dr Ambedkar explained in his final speech to the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949, political equality, the principle of one person one vote, does not automatically bring about social equality. And the fact is, there is complete absence of social equality; there is no fraternity (the sense of brotherhood amongst all Indians) in Indian society. This is because of the presence of castes in India, which bring about separation in social life. Without overcoming this, without genuine fraternity, equality and liberty will be no deeper than coats of paint, the idea of citizenship cannot truly be realised, and in fact, we will not even become a nation in reality.

The policy of reservation was thus a scheme to realise this larger dream of Indian democracy. It was neither thought of as a poverty alleviation programme nor as an employment generation scheme by our Constitution framers.

Unfortunately, the demand for reservations by the Marathas, Patels and Jats completely negates this perspective on the basis of which the policy of reservations has been sanctioned in the Constitution. It is a sad commentary on the democratic consciousness of Indian society that even seven decades after independence, there is no powerful social movement in the country demanding an end to the humiliating hierarchical setup that continues to pervade Indian society. Instead of that, massive rallies are taking place and bandhs are being called to voice the demand for reservations on the logic of present economic backwardness, and the major political parties, for political expediency, are trying to come up with all kinds of schemes to somehow fulfil this demand.

Limitation of the Reservation Demand

One of the demands being raised by these dominant castes is that they be given reservation in higher educational institutions. One becomes eligible for reservation in these institutions only after passing Class XII. This is also the minimum eligibility if one wants to take the benefit of reservation in government jobs. However, in India, only 16% of all children enrolling in Class I cross the Class XII threshold, the majority (84%) drop out before that.

This implies that even if the government somehow finds a way to give reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to these dominant castes, and the courts too allow it, only a small percentage of the population of these castes is going to be eligible for this ‘benefit’. [This is true, actually more true, for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes and Other Backward Classes too. Barely 10% of the OBC students, 8% of the SC students and 6% of the ST students (out of those admitted to Class I) cross the Class XII barrier. This means that the social justice provisions of the Indian Constitution continue to elude the overwhelming majority of these most marginalised sections of the Indian society even today.]iii

Therefore, if the Maratha / Jat / Patel / Gujjar youth are genuinely concerned about uplifting their caste brethren, the demand that they should first raise is that the government should take steps to ensure genuine universalisation of school education. This would require the government to: i) ban all forms of commercialisation of school education; ii) ensure genuinely free education of equitable quality to all children up to Class XII, and gradually improve the quality of all government schools to at least the level of Kendriya Vidyalayas; iii) scrap the policy of appointing contract teachers, and ensure that all teachers are well qualified and trained and given decent salaries and social security; and, for this, iii) increase its educational spending (Centre + states combined) to at least 6% of GDP as mandated by the Kothari Commission, of which the Centre should spend 25%. This is actually a demand that should be raised / supported by all people of this country, across all castes, which would also increase fraternity amongst all Indian people.

About the Maratha Community in Maharashtra

Let us however keep aside these arguments about the faulty and limited logic behind the Maratha demand for reservations, and try and understand the reasons behind the mobilisation of lakhs of Maratha youth for reservations in educational institutions and government jobs.

The Marathas are undoubtedly one of the most dominant communities in Maharashtra State. They have a stranglehold on state politics. From 1962 to 2004, of the total of 2,430 MLAs, 1,336 or 55% were Maratha. Of Maharashtra’s 18 chief ministers since the state was formed in 1960, 10 have been Marathas. Economically too, the Marathas are one of the most dominant castes in the state. This has been established by several studies and commissions. More than 75% of the land in the state is owned by the community. Nearly 54% of the educational institutions in the state are controlled by them. Of the 105 sugar factories, 86 are headed by Marathas, while 23 district cooperative banks have Marathas as chairpersons. Marathas dominate the universities in the state, with 60 to 75% presence in the management. About 71% of the cooperative institutions are under the control of this community. In addition, all the milk cooperatives and cotton mills are either owned or controlled by them.iv

Why is such a dominant community, which had once opposed caste-based reservations during the late 1980s at the time of the anti-Mandal Commission agitation, now trying to seek it for itself?

Growing Economic Crisis

The reason for this is that it is only a small section of the Marathas who are rich and control the sugar factories, cooperative banks, milk cooperatives and educational institutions. The majority of the Marathas are small and marginal farmers. A survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) found only 3% rich Marathas among the sampled families in 2014. On the other hand, around 20% of the sampled Maratha respondents were landless labourers and 15% had less than three acres each. Another survey by two prominent political scientists—Rajeshwari Deshpande and Suhas Palshikar of Savitribai Phule Pune University—found that “land ownership patterns suggest nearly 65% of Marathas are poor, whereas hardly 4% own more than 20 acres of land and thus may be classified as rich farmers.”v

These small and marginal Maratha farmers, who constitute the overwhelming proportion of the Maratha population of the State, are finding themselves facing severe livelihood concerns because of the neoliberal economic policies being implemented in the country over the past nearly three decades. In 1991, the Indian government signed an agreement with the IMF–World Bank, international financial institutions controlled by the USA and the European Union, pledging to a thoroughgoing restructuring of the Indian economy in return for a huge foreign loan. The conditionalities imposed on India, and accepted by the Indian Government, included:vi

  1. Allowing foreign corporations unrestricted entry into each and every sector of the Indian economy;

  2. Privatising public sector corporations and public sector financial institutions, and even welfare services like education and health;

  3. Reducing subsidies to the poor, including agriculture, health, education and nutrition subsidies.

Thus began what has come to be known as the globalisation of the Indian economy. It has pushed agriculture into a severe crisis. Because of this, the youth in the villages, the children of small and marginal farmers, are no longer interested in staying in the villages and doing farming for a livelihood. They are migrating to the cities in search of jobs. But there are no jobs in the cities too! The very same neoliberal economic policies that have pushed agriculture into crisis have also resulted in a drying up of jobs. Employment generation in the private sector has virtually collapsed. There are very few jobs available in manufacturing and other private sectors—and the few jobs available are insecure, contractual jobs offering very low salaries.

Therefore, the youth believe that the only way out of this employment crisis is to try and get a government job, which is the only secure job available today with a decent salary. Of the government jobs available, around 50% are reserved, for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes and Other Backward Classes. And so, the Maratha youth are out on the streets, demanding reservation in government jobs, in the belief that if they are given reservations, many of them will be able to get these secure, good quality jobs.

This is the reason behind the agitations for reservations in jobs by not just the Marathas in Maharashtra, but also by the dominant caste groups of other states, such as Patels (also known as Patidars) in Gujarat, Jats in Haryana, Gujjars in Rajasthan and Kapus in Andhra Pradesh. The governments of the respective states as well as the Central government have extended support to this demand, and are trying to find a way of circumventing orders of the Supreme Court rejecting the demand for reservation for these dominant castes and imposing a cap on total reservations at 50%. The opposition too has gone along with the reservation discourse, as it too is not willing to question the economic policy orientation that has led to this massive unemployment crisis.

In this article, we first discuss the agricultural crisis in the country, and then the worsening unemployment crisis. Finally, we examine the demand being raised by Maratha youth for reservation in government jobs.

The Agricultural Crisis

While the contribution of agriculture to the country’s GDP has come down by half over the period 1983–84 to 2010–11,vii from the point of view of livelihoods, this continues to be the most important sector. Of the total workforce in the country, 53% people depend on this sector for their livelihoods (in 2009–10).

Table 1: Average Growth Rates of Area, Production & Yield

Under Foodgrains, Non-Foodgrains & All Cropsviii

 

Foodgrains

Non-foodgrains

All crops

 

Area

Prod.

Yield

Area

Prod.

Yield

Area

Prod.

Yield

1950–51 to

1989–90

0.61

2.61

1.60

1.22

2.97

1.08

0.79

2.66

1.37

1990–91 to

2004–05

0.07

1.64

1.27

1.03

2.81

1.39

0.25

1.96

1.29

For the past nearly three decades, as a part of the neoliberal policies, successive governments at the Centre have been gradually eliminating subsidies given to agriculture and ‘freeing the market’. They have reduced public investment in agriculture, cut subsidies given on major inputs needed for agriculture (such as fertiliser, electricity and irrigation subsidies), gradually eliminated output support to agriculture (in the form of public procurement of agricultural produce), gradually phased out subsidised credit given to agriculture (by public sector banks) and allowed imports of heavily subsidised agricultural produce from the developed countries into India.ix This multi-pronged onslaught on Indian agriculture has pushed this sector into deep crisis. In all important indicators that measure the performance of agriculture, be it area or production or yield, of foodgrains or non-foodgrains, the contrast between pre-globalisation and post-globalisation periods is quite stark (see Table 1).

The net result of these anti-small farmer policies is that for nearly 70% of Indian farmers who have land holdings of less than 1 hectare, total income from all sources (cultivation, farming of animals, non-farm business and wages) has fallen to less than consumption expenditure.x This, in turn, has led to a huge increase in rural indebtedness. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), in 2012–13, 52% of the total agricultural households in the country were in debt. The average debt was Rs 47,000 per agricultural household, in a country where the yearly income from cultivation per household was only Rs 36,972.xi

Under the Modi Government, the implementation of neoliberal policies has accelerated. It has led to a severe worsening of the agricultural crisis. The Modi Government has made a complete U-turn on its 2014 election promise to provide farmers Minimum Support Prices (MSP) that would ensure them a 50% profit over cost of production. There is complete silence on the issue of strengthening public procurement of farm produce. At the same time, input subsidies to agriculture, such as fertiliser subsidy, have been further reduced.xii Despite the worsening debt crisis, the Central government has refused to waive farm loans (finally, farmers’ movements across the country forced some states to waive these loans). It would have cost the government at the most Rs 3 lakh crore,xiii while benefiting crores of farmers across the country. As we show later, it is not that the government does not have money for this; it is a question of priorities.

Table 2: BJP Government Allocation for Agriculture Related Sectors, 2014–18xiv (Rs crore)

  

2014–15 BE (a)

2018–19 (b)

1

Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare

31,917

57,600

 

(1) as % of Budget Outlay

1.92%

2.36%

2

Total Agriculture Spending*

1,78,225

2,51,500

 

Total Agricultural Spending (2) as % of Budget Outlay

10.71%

10.30%

 

Total Agricultural Spending (2) as % of GDP

1.43%

1.34%

* Includes Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Water Resources and Department of Fertilisers

The total budget allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare in Union Budget 2018–19 is miniscule—only Rs 57,600 crore, a mere 2.36% of the total budget outlay, for a sector on which more than 50% of the population depend for their livelihoods. Further, government spending on all agriculture related sectors (agriculture, rural development, water resources and fertiliser subsidy) as a percentage of GDP has actually fallen—from an already low of 1.43% during the last year of the previous government and the first year of the Modi Government to 1.34% in the 2018–19 BE (Table 2).

Three decades of battering by hostile policies and the worsening debt crisis have pushed the hardy Indian peasants into such despair that they are being driven to commit suicides in record numbers. More than three lakh farmers have committed suicide in the country since 1995. It is the largest recorded wave of such deaths in history.xv

Because of the worsening agricultural crisis, employment generation in this sector has virtually collapsed. Total employment in agriculture during the 16-year period 1993–94 to 2009–10 has risen by a miniscule 2.4 million, or just 1% (Table 3).

Table 3: Agricultural Employment, Pre- and Post-Reform Yearsxvi (in million)

 

Agricultural Employment

1983

207.23

1993–94

242.46

1999–2000

237.67

2004–05

258.93

2009–10

244.85

No Jobs in Cities

As a part of the conditionalities imposed on the country by the World Bank, successive governments at the Centre since 1991 have gradually been removing all restrictions on the entry of foreign multinational corporations (MNCs) into the Indian economy. During the four years it has been in power, the swadeshi Modi Government has announced such a huge liberalisation of rules governing foreign investment in the country that it has proudly declared that India has become the most open country in the world! Not only that, the entire economic policy is now being re-oriented to suit the profit maximisation of big corporations. For instance, the government is relaxing all labour laws so that big corporations can employ contract workers in place of permanent workers, hire and fire them at will, and pay them rock bottom wages. This has worsened the quality of the few jobs available in the country.

Big corporations don’t create jobs. They employ the latest labour saving technologies, and employ the minimum possible workers.xvii And with the government dismantling labour laws, even the few jobs being created by them are low wage, contract jobs. On the other hand, because they are so big, these companies destroy many more jobs than they create, as their entry forces many small companies to close down or merge with them.

This is precisely what is happening in India too. While three decades of globalisation has led to a huge entry of foreign corporations into the country, the country has rapidly industrialised, and the GDP growth rate has significantly increased, it has not led to the creation of jobs. To illustrate, the total employment (workers plus sales and supervisory and managerial staff) in all of India’s registered factories (both small and large scale industries combined) increased by only 3.01 million during the 16-year period 1993–94 to 2009–10. This means that only 1.5 percent of the total people who entered the job market during these 16 years (3 million out of 208 million) got any kind of factory jobs. In other words, despite the massive entry of foreign corporations into the country since the beginning of globalisation in 1991, very few factory jobs have been created. The total number of people working in factories after two decades of globalisation, in 2010, was only 11.72 million, or 2.5 percent of the total official workforce in the country of 460 million.xviii

The net consequence is that ever since globalisation began, there has been a slowdown in employment growth rate in the country. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of employment in the country fell from 2.44% during the period 1972–73 to 1983 and 2.04% during the period 1983 to 1993–94, to only 1.3% per annum for the entire post-globalisation period of 1993–94 to 2009–10. Employment growth during 1999–2000 to 2009–10 was 1.49% per annum, lower than any previous ten-year period. This slowdown has taken place despite a sharp acceleration in the country’s GDP growth rate (Table 4).

Table 4: Total Employment, Employment Growth Rate and GDP Growth Rate,

1983 to 2009–10xix

 

Total Employment (in million)

Period

CAGR

GDP Growth Rate (at constant 1999–2000 prices)

1983

302.76

1972–73 to 1983

2.44%

4.7%

1993–94

374.45

1983 to 1993–94

2.04%

5.0%

1999–2000

396.76

1993–94 to 2004–05

1.84%

6.3%

2004–05

457.46

2004–05 to 2009–10

0.12%

9.1%

2009–10

460.22

1999–2000 to 2009–10

1.49%

 
  

1993–94 to 2009–10

1.30%

 

It is estimated that in India, the total number of new people who enter the job market every year in search of jobs is around 13 million.xx That means that during the decade 1999–2000 to 2009–10, a total of 130 million people entered the job market. The NSSO data given in Table 4 indicate that of these, only 63.5 million or 48.8% got any kind of jobs.

Worse, all these jobs were only informal jobs—jobs with low wages, probably even below the minimum wage, insecure jobs, and with little or no other benefits like compensation in case of injury, paid leave, sick leave, and so on. None of the jobs created during the decade 2000–10 were formal sector jobs—where workers have at least some legal rights such as security of employment, minimum wages, sick leave, compensation for work-related injuries and right to organise—because of the contractualisation of jobs taking place in the economy due to the deliberate dismantling of labour laws in the country by the government. According to the Planning Commission of India, during the decade 1999–2000 to 2009–10, the total number of formal jobs in the economy actually fell from 35 million to 33 million (Table 5)!

Table 5: Formal and Informal Employment in Indiaxxi (in million)

 

1999–2000

2009–10

Formal Employment

35.0

33.0

Informal Employment

361.7

427.22

Total Work Force

396.8

460.22

The result is that the total number of formal sector workers in the country, who have what the Economic Survey of the Government of India calls ‘good jobs’xxii, constitute just 7.2% of the total work force.xxiii The remaining 92.8% workers are in informal jobs—such as fruit sellers selling a few dozen bananas on hand carts, peanut sellers hawking peanuts and other such snacks on bicycles, roadside hawkers selling clothes or other sundry items, scrap collectors collecting old newspapers and scrap from homes, graduates running tiny telephone recharge shops or driving autorickshaws for 12 hours every day, sales boys and girls going from house to house selling cosmetics / sarees / books, unorganised sector construction workers working in dangerous conditions at construction sites, farmers toiling day and night in an attempt to extract the maximum possible from their tiny holdings.

The acceleration of neoliberal policies under the Modi Government has led to a further worsening of the employment crisis. According to a recent study, there was an absolute decline in employment during the first two years of the Modi Government (2014–16), possibly the first time this has happened since independence.xxiv

As if this was not enough, the Modi government then announced two economic policies that directly assaulted the informal sector that provides employment to more than 90% of the workforce—first, demonetisation (announced in November 2016), and then the rollout of the GST (in July 2017). Both these policies had a devastating impact on the informal sector, resulting in closure of thousands of small scale units and loss of lakhs of jobs. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has estimated that post-demonetisation, roughly 1.5 million jobs were lost during the four month period from January to April 2017.xxv

And so, the Demand for Reservations

While globalisation has led to a sharp increase in wealth of the rich, especially the top 1%— and to a lesser extent the top 10%—of the population,xxvi for the vast majority of the people, these economic reforms have destroyed employment and livelihood opportunities and pushed crores of people into destitution. Amongst the worst hit have been the farming communities, such as the Maratha community in Maharashtra, the Patels in Gujarat and Jats in Haryana. The youth of these hitherto dominant castes, who earlier either took to agriculture, or were absorbed in industry / services on moving to cities, are now facing a huge crisis of unemployment. Crafty politicians have channelised this disenchantment of the youth into raising the demand for reservation in government jobs.

The gullible youth have come to believe that government jobs are available in significant numbers, and if their castes are included in the category of OBCs and become eligible for reservations in government jobs, then large numbers of them would get decent jobs.

The reality is that there are no government jobs too! As it is, total public sector employment in the country is only around 4% of the total employment in the country.xxvii Furthermore, as a part of the neoliberal economic reforms being implemented in the country, on the one hand, the Indian Government has been privatising public sector enterprises and welfare services such as education and health, and on the other hand, it has been reducing public employment in all areas—the vacancies arising out of retirement are not being filled (the government admitted in the Rajya Sabha a few days ago that nearly 24 lakh posts are lying vacant with the Central and state governmentsxxviii), employment is being forcibly reduced by ‘Voluntary Retirement Schemes’, and several jobs are being contractualised. This has led to a drastic fall in public sector recruitment. Public sector employment in the country continuously increased in the decades after independence, from 70.5 lakh in 1961 to 190.6 lakh in 1991. But with the beginning of globalisation, this has got reversed. Public sector employment [including every form of government—Central, state, local government as well as quasi-government (public sector enterprises, electricity boards, road transport corporations, etc.)] over the period 1991–2012 has fallen in absolute terms, from 190 lakh to 176 lakh (Table 6). This decline has taken place in every sphere of economic activity, from manufacturing, construction and transport to community, social and personal services.xxix

Table 6: Total Government Employment

(Centre+State+Local Govt.+Quasi Govt.) (in lakh)

Year

Total Employment

1981

154.8

1991

190.6

2012

176.1

Had employment generation continued at same pace as 1981–91, public sector employment would have risen to 295 lakh in 2012, implying the creation of 1.04 crore jobs. Instead, the total number of jobs declined, by 14.5 lakh.

To conclude, even if the Central/State government finds a way of giving the Maratha youth reservation in government jobs, it will in actuality not result in creation of any significant job opportunities for these youth. The demand for reservation in government jobs is nothing but a mirage. The reason why the upper caste youth, like the Maratha youth in Maharashtra, are facing such a huge crisis of joblessness is not because there is reservation for the Dalits and OBCs, but because there are no jobs, and reason why there is stagnation in job creation is because of the neoliberal economic policies being implemented in the country. If the youth of Maharashtra are serious about finding solutions to the employment crisis, they will need to think more deeply about the real reasons for the unemployment crisis, challenge the economic model being implemented in the country, and raise meaningful demands that will genuinely lead to the creation of a large number of jobs.

We now discuss some of these demands that need to be raised for meaningful job creation in the country.

Some Proposals for Creating Jobs

i) Increase Spending on Agriculture

As discussed above, Indian agriculture is in crisis because of the neoliberal economic reforms. Because of this crisis, which is pushing thousands of farmers to commit suicide every year, employment generation in agriculture has fallen to near zero. To bring the agricultural sector out of this crisis and stimulate job creation in this vitally important sector, the government needs to make farming profitable by:

  • reducing input costs by increasing subsidies on fertilisers, electricity, water, etc.;

  • providing output price support;

  • increasing public investment in agriculture—which is absolutely essential for agricultural growth; and

  • waiving all farm debts, including debts to private moneylenders, and ensuring availability of institutional credit to farmers at subsidised rates.

In other words, the government needs to increase public investment in all agriculture related sectors. It needs to be at least doubled or trebled. Where will the money come from for this? We discuss this issue later in this essay.

This will reverse the decline in Indian agriculture and bring back employment generation to at least the pre-globalisation levels. Had employment generation in agriculture during the post-reform years continued at the same rate as during the period 1983 to 1993–94 (when CAGR was 1.51%, see Table 3), total employment in agriculture would have gone up to 308 million by 2009–10 instead of 245 million. In other words, instead of the net 2.4 million jobs created during the 16-year period 1994–2010, 65.5 million jobs would have been created in the agricultural sector—an additional 63 million jobs!

ii) Provide Incentives for the Small Scale Sector

As discussed above, the overwhelming proportion of employment in the country is provided by the informal sector, including what the government calls the Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs). The Modi government has announced a scheme known as Mudra Yojana. Under this, the government provides a loan of between Rs 50,000 to Rs 10 lakh to people wishing to be entrepreneurs and setting up micro enterprises. According to official statistics, over the last three years since the scheme was launched in 2015, nearly 13 crore people have been sanctioned a total of Rs 6 lakh crore under this scheme till May 25, 2018 (of which Rs 5.81 lakh crore has been disbursed). A simple calculation shows that the average of sanctioned loans under this Yojana comes to Rs 46,530 while the disbursed amount is Rs 45,034.xxx While the Modi Government has been claiming that this scheme has helped create several crore jobs, this is obviously another of its big lies; the amount of loan being disbursed under this scheme is too inadequate for setting up any kind of small scale business.

The government must substantially boost the financial incentives it provides for entrepreneurs interested in setting up MSMEs, including both the amount of loan and the interest subsidy for this loan, as well as provide other incentives, such as reserving production of several items for this sector and banning imports of these items to protect this sector from unfair competition with subsidised imports by recession hit automated plants of multinational corporations. The money for this is there—we discuss this later in this essay.

iii) Create More Government Jobs

Lakhs of youth are mobilising across the country demanding reservations for their castes—when there are no government jobs! They are all fighting for a slice of the public employment ‘cake’, when there is no cake on the table.

Instead, we all need to unite, across castes and communities, and demand more government jobs. To make an estimate of how many government jobs can possibly be created in India, let us compare the number of government jobs in India with that in the USA and other developed countries, per lakh of population.

Unlike the propaganda being daily fed to us by our politicians and bureaucrats, public sector employment in India is not high; on the contrary, it is very low when compared to the developed countries, all of whom are unabashedly free market economies (see Table 7). An important reason why public sector employment in the developed countries is high is because of their high social sector expenditures. Most developed countries spend substantial sums on providing social security for their citizens, including universal health coverage, free school education and free or cheap university education, old age pension, maternity benefits, disability benefits, family allowance such as child care allowance, and much more. This obviously requires that they employ a large number of people in the social sectors to provide these services to their population.

The USA has one of the lowest levels of public sector employment (per lakh of population) among the developed countries. Even if we take this as the level that India should reach, that is, if India is to have the same number of public sector employees per lakh of population as the USA, then India’s public sector employment would have to increase to at least 88.9 million.xxxi Presently, there are only 17.6 million public sector employees in India. This means an additional 71.3 million or 7.13 crore jobs would be created—that too, decent, formal jobs!

Table 7: Public Sector Employment per Lakh of Populationxxxii

Sweden

15,070

France

8,760

USA

7,220

India

1,430

Therefore, instead of fighting amongst ourselves on the basis of caste, religion, region and so on, let us unite and demand that the government should increase its social sector spending, and create more public sector jobs. That would create at least a few crore jobs! Creation of such a large number of public sector jobs will lead to the creation of at least as many private sector jobs if not more, as the creation of so many well-paid jobs in the public sector will give a big boost to demand and will therefore lead to a huge increase in private sector production—as Keynes had pointed out several decades ago.

For instance, if in Maharashtra State alone, the government decides to take urgent and decisive steps to send all children compulsorily to school, and provide them free and good quality education (of Kendriya Vidyalaya standards) up to Class XII, this would require the opening of thousands of schools and recruitment of a very large number of teachers. How many? We have estimated that for this, the government would need to recruit an additional 19 lakh teachers in the minimum!xxxiii

And if so many school teachers are recruited, that would call for a big increase in the number of associate staff, from clerks to laboratory assistants to peons and so on. So many schools would need to be constructed, furniture made, school textbooks printed, and so on. This would lead to a big increase in jobs in all these industries. The recruitment of so many school teachers and associate staff in schools would lead to a big increase in the demand for consumer goods and so there would be much job creation in these industries too. So much job creation, in just a single state in the country, only by investing in providing compulsory, good quality education to all children!

And it is not just education, but all welfare services, that are in a terrible state in our country. Therefore, we are not at all exaggerating when we estimate that if the government indeed decided to provide good quality essential services to all people in the country, it would lead to the creation of several crore jobs.

But Where Will the Money Come From?

Our readers will say—that is all ok, but where will the money come from for all this? India is a poor country, the government does not have enough money to implement this.

That the Indian Government has no money is a myth, propagated by the government and its propagandists. The reality is, the Indian Government has been doling out subsidies to the rich to the tune of several lakh crore rupees every year. To give two stunning examples:

  • Successive governments at the Centre have been giving tax concessions to the country’s corporate houses and super-rich every year, for the last several years, ever since the economic reforms began. Over the 13–year period 2005–06 to 2017–18, these tax write-offs total a mind-boggling Rs 58.6 lakh crore!xxxiv

  • Over the 15-year period 2004–18, Indian public sector banks have written off a whopping Rs 4.6 lakh crore worth of loans given to big corporate houses. Of this amount, Rs 3.1 lakh crore has been waived by the Modi Government during its four years in power.xxxv Apart from this, during this period, banks have also restructured loans—which is a more roundabout way of writing off loans—given to these high and mighty, probably to the tune of Rs 10 lakh crore or so.xxxvi

Apart from this, other concessions being given to the rich include handing over control of the country’s mineral wealth and resources to private corporations in return for negligible royalty payments, transferring ownership of our profitable public sector corporations to foreign and Indian private business houses at throwaway prices, direct subsidies to private corporations in the name of ‘public–private–partnership’ for infrastructural projects, and so on. These transfers of public wealth to private coffers also total several lakh crore rupees.xxxvii

If the government reduces these concessions / transfers of public money to the country’s uber rich, it can substantially increase its expenditure on agriculture and the social sectors.xxxviii That would lead to a big increase in agricultural jobs, as well as create several crore government jobs.

To Conclude

Friends, the reason why there are no jobs, the reason why there is such acute joblessness in the country, is not because of the ‘other’—unemployment is not because reservation for Dalits and STs and OBCs has snatched away jobs. The reason is that there are simply no decent, formal sector jobs. And that is because of globalisation, because of the neoliberal economic policies being implemented in the country. Once we well and truly realise this, only then, instead of mobilising against the ‘other’, ‘we’ will unite with the ‘other’ and unitedly raise demands that challenge the economic policy orientation in the country and will truly lead to job creation and enough decent jobs for all.

References

i“Part-v Chapter – ii Reservation and Constitution of India – Shodhganga”, http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in.

iiSuhas Palshikar, “The New Reservation”, August 1, 2018, https://indianexpress.com.

iiiEstimates made by Prof. Anil Sadgopal, one of the most renowned educationists of India: Lokesh Malti Prakash, “Education in the Neo-Liberal Limbo”, November 2, 2012, http://khwabesahar.wordpress.com.

ivMeena Menon, “Nation in a State: That Maratha Demand, Once Again”, June 12, 2012, https://www.thehindu.com.

vAkshat Kaushal and Mayank Mishra, “Why Dominant Castes Want Other Backward Classes Status”, October 29, 2015, https://www.business-standard.com.

viThere are several articles available on the internet outlining these conditionalities. See for example: Structural Adjustment in India, World Bank, 2012, http://lnweb90.worldbank.org; Montek S. Ahluwalia, Structural Adjustment and Reform in Developing Countries, April 1994, www.planningcommission.nic.in; Ashwini Deshpande, Prabirjit Sarkar, “Structural Adjustment in India – A Critical Assessment”, Economic and Political Weekly, December 9, 1995, http://www.epw.in; David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 7–8, 29, 64–66.

vii“Gross Domestic Product from Agriculture & Allied Sectors and % Share to GDP 1950–51 to 14–15 at Constant 2004–05 prices”, taken from Data Tables, Planning Commission, December 23, 2014, http://planningcommission.nic.in.

viiiRaghbendra Jha, Investment and Subsidies in Indian Agriculture, Australian National University, Canberra, https://devpolicy.crawford.anu.edu.au.

ixFor more discussion on this, see: Neeraj Jain, “Budget 2018–19: What is in it for the People?” Janata, April 15, 2018, http://janataweekly.org; Spectre of Fascism, Janata / Lokayat Publication, Pune, 2016, pp. 54–59, http://lokayat.org.in.

x“A Budget Amid Agrarian Crisis Pt. III”, Research Unit for Political Economy, https://rupeindia.wordpress.com; also see ibid.

xi“Farmers Indebtedness: Into the Abyss?” January 30, 2015, http://www.downtoearth.org.in.

xii For more discussion on this, see: Neeraj Jain, “Budget 2017–18: Is it Indeed a Pro-Farmer Budget?” Janata, February 12, 2017, http://janataweekly.org; Spectre of Fascism, op. cit., pp. 57–59; Neeraj Jain, “Budget 2018–19: What is in it for the People?” op. cit.

xiii“India Faces Rs 3 Lakh Cr Farm Loan Waivers – 16 Times 2017 Rural Roads Budget”, June 17, 2017, http://www.business-standard.com.

xivAll figures from Union Budget documents, available at: Union Budget, http://indiabudget.nic.in.

xvP. Sainath, “The Slaughter of Suicide Data”, August 5, 2015, http://psainath.org.

xviFigures for 1983 and 1993–94 taken from: Economic Survey, 2001–02: Social Sectors – Labour and Employment, http://indiabudget.nic.in; figures for 1999–00, 2004–05 and 2009–10 taken from Twelfth Five Year Plan: Volume 3 – Social Sectors, http://planningcommission.gov.in, p. 160.

xviiFor more on this, see our booklet, The Unemployment Crisis: Reasons and Solutions, Lokayat publication, p. 42, http://lokayat.org.in.

xviiiAnnual Survey of Industries 2010–2011 (Factory Sector), mail.mospi.gov.in/index.php.

xixGDP growth rate figures taken from: T.S. Papola, Partha Pratim Sahu, Growth and Structure of Employment in India, March 2012, http://isidev.nic.in.; CAGR for 1972–73 to 1983 taken from: S. Mahendra Dev, “Employment and Growth in India”, http://www.aiggpa.mp.gov.in; employment figures for 1983 and 1993–94 taken from: Economic Survey, 2001–02: Social Sectors – Labour and Employment, http://indiabudget.nic.in; employment figures for 1999–2000, 2004–05 and 2009–10 taken from: Twelfth Five Year Plan: Volume 3 – Social Sectors, op. cit., p. 160; CAGR calculations done by us.

xxMuthukumar K., Seetharaman R., “In Search of a Job”, April 10, 2017 http://www.thehindubusinessline.com; S.A. Aiyar, “‘Drive in India’ Can Generate More Jobs than ‘Make in India’”, February 26, 2017, http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com.

xxiTwelfth Five Year Plan: Volume 3 – Social Sectors, op. cit., p. 131.

xxiiEconomic Survey, 2015–16, Volume 1, p. 140, http://indiabudget.nic.in.

xxiiiTwelfth Five Year Plan: Volume 3 – Social Sectors, op. cit., p. 131.

xxiv“Absolute Decline in Jobs, Says New CDS Study, Drop Sharpest in Last Three Years”, October 2, 2017, https://www.outlookindia.com.

xxvMahesh Vyas, “1.5 Million Jobs Lost in First Four Months of 2017”, July 11, 2017, https://www.cmie.com.

xxvi“The Richest 1% of Indians Now Own 58.4% of Wealth”, November 24, 2016, http://www.livemint.com; S. Rukmini, “India’s Staggering Wealth Gap in Five Charts”, December 8, 2014, http://www.thehindu.com.

xxviiTotal public sector employment is only around 18 million, out of a total workforce of 460 million, in 2009–10.

xxviii“Central and State Governments Sit Over 24 Lakh Vacancies Amid Debate Over Job Drought”, August 5, 2018, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com.

xxixR. Nagaraj, “Public Sector Employment: What has Changed?” Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, 2014, http://www.igidr.ac.in.; T.S. Papola, Partha Pratim Sahu, “Growth and Structure of Employment in India”, op. cit.

xxx“Mudra Yojana is a Mission or Mess? 5-Point Fact Checker”, May 29, 2018, https://www.indiatoday.in.

xxxiCalculations done by us, from references given in endnote 32.

xxxiiCalculations done by us. Population and employment figures for developed countries taken from: “Sweden / France / USA – Economic Indicators”, https://tradingeconomics.com; public sector employment percentage taken from Niall McCarthy, “Scandinavia Leads The World In Public Sector Employment”, July 21, 2017, https://www.forbes.com. Note that the population and employment figures are for 2017, while public sector employment figures are for 2015. India figure is for 2012; public sector employment in India was 17.6 million in 2012, and population of India for 2012 taken as 1,230 million and calculated from figures given in: “Population of India”, http://statisticstimes.com.

xxxiiiCalculations done in our booklet, The Unemployment Crisis: Reasons and Solutions, op. cit., pp. 66–68.

xxxiv“P Sainath on Corporate Bailout #Rs 36.5 Trillion #Budget 2014”, July 13, 2014, http://www.indiaresists.com; Neeraj Jain, “Budget 2018–19: What is in it for the People?” op. cit.

xxxvWe have calculated this from the following data: Loans written off by public sector banks over the period 2004–15 totalled Rs 2.11 lakh crore (‘PSU Banks’ Write-Off of Bad Loans at Rs 1,14,000 Cr in 2013–15: RBI’, February 8, 2016, http://www.domain-b.com); “PSU Banks Write Off Rs 2.49 Lakh Crore of Loans in 5 Years”, August 7, 2017, http://economictimes.indiatimes.com; “Public Sector Banks Write-Off Bad Loans Worth Rs 1.2 Lakh Crore in 2017–18”, June 15, 2018, https://www.businesstoday.in.

xxxviDinesh Unnikrishnan, “For State-Run Banks, Delayed Economic Recovery Would Mean More Pain from Restructured Loans”, December, 26 2014, http://www.firstpost.com; “Infrastructure Loans Emerge as Banks’ Biggest Stress Point”, April 25, 2014, http://www.livemint.com; “Restructured Loans Cross Rs.2.27 Trillion; Pace Slows”, April 5, 2013, http://www.livemint.com.

xxxviiMore for examples of these concessions given to the rich, see our booklet: Is the Government Really Poor, Lokayat Publication, Pune, 2018, http://lokayat.org.in.

xxxviiiWe have discussed the potential of how much money the government can spend on the social sectors by cutting down the subsidies it gives to the rich in our essay: Neeraj Jain, “Budget 2018–19: What is in it for the People?” op. cit.