Promising sops is a regressive step that is not helping India

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As the date for the massive seven-phase polling exercise to elect the 17th Lok Sabha draws near, parties, especially the ruling BJP and opposition Congress, are promising new schemes and sops to entice voters.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi has announced his plan to create jobs. His plan includes: Zero permissions for the first three years of any new business; Goodbye Angel Tax; Solid incentives and tax credits based on how many jobs you create; Easy Bank Credit. This is aimed at boosting the economy of the country which will become a cornerstone in a broad road map to elevate the country from piling debts and inflation.

This is also being seen as Congress’ response to BJP government’s ‘Startup India’ and ‘Standup India’ schemes, announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15 August 2015 on the occasion of 69th Independence Day of India. ‘Startup India’ is an action plan to promote entrepreneurship and encourage start-ups with jobs creation, whereas ‘Stand up India’ is aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among SC/STs, women communities.

Taking the announcements by both the parties into consideration, one thing is clear that the main agenda to fight the elections will be employment and job creation, which primarily targets the youth.

Congress seems to have realized that dragging topics like Goods and Services Tax (GST), Rafale fighter jets deal, Skill India initiate, Make in India initiate to Jan Dhan Yojana and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, isn’t working for the party. But in a change, they have proposed something. But that remains at the stage of ‘something’.

But, is it too late too little? With less than two weeks for the start of elections and little over one and a half month for its completion, how much ground can Congress cover is a big guess.

Nonetheless, the bigger issue at hand, is the tradition of doling out sops and freebies on the eve of elections healthy for India?

The unemployment issue needs a more planned, sustainable and long term plan that should not be used as a poll plank for garnering votes.

Coming to Meghalaya, which doesn’t have any big industries to boast of, the rate of unemployment is heavy burden on any government. Year after year, aspirants need to stage dharnas to get their rightful job as the State government has a nefarious habit of keeping the candidates waiting for joining letters despite clearing the exams. Many a times, this has led to candidates not getting the call letters even years after clearing the exam, thereby leading to lapsing of the validity of their result.

To add to the problem, government jobs are the only avenue for the youth to seek employment, but the posts are limited in number. In such a situation, where we have thousands graduating every year, where do the aspirants go?

Entrepreneurship has often been seen as the way to tackle unemployment. But without financial resources, training, network to other states and raw materials, and lack of knowledge of new trends and products and almost no support from the government coupled with lengthy paper work for permissions, how our entrepreneurs will succeed.

If India’s leaders are serious about tackling the unemployment issue, more so in Meghalaya, the approach has to change drastically. The government must provide incubation programmes to train and guide the youths. The process to start a business also needs to be drastically cut short and made lot more reasonable.

Further, labor intensive technologies need to be encouraged over capital intensive technology.

For Meghalaya, the industrial policy must be tweaked which allows more investment to flow into the State and provide more avenues for expansion. It must become practical enough so that locals are employable along with technical supervision from outside workforce. The idea should be to bring balance as well as provide security. The current industrial policy is not investment friendly and doesn’t have room to employ technical experts from outside to be brought in. As such, many investors are only showing ‘interest’, and are unable to setup companies here.

The state also has huge ‘potential’ on the tourism, hospitality and organic farming sector. Accordingly, the government must chalk out a plan to ‘harvest’ this potential and make necessary amendments to its policies to strike the balance. Also, the government should rigorously work out startegies for marketing of the State and its products.

Until the government is not bold enough to take such steps, the unemployment number will only keep increasing year after year with no solution in sight.

Simply promising jobs without any plans is a regressive step that doesn’t bode well for the country and its youth in the long run.