Navigating the unemployment conundrum in rural India

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Navigating the unemployment conundrum in rural India

Monday, 30 October 2023 | Bina bisht

Navigating the unemployment conundrum in rural India

Despite the government's efforts to address the issue of unemployment, the focus has  shifted towards fostering self-employment

Over the last decade, India has made significant strides, becoming a global economic powerhouse with advancements not only in the economic sector but also in science and technology, propelling it to the forefront of innovation worldwide. Despite this remarkable progress, the stark reality is that unemployment continues to be a growing challenge in the country, with rural areas bearing a significant brunt.

Young people in rural regions are often left behind in the job market due to a lack of technical skills. Even in the scenic state of Uttarakhand, rural areas are not exempt from this predicament. A substantial portion of the state's youth finds themselves without work, prompting many to migrate to larger cities and urban centres in search of opportunities. While the metropolises and urban areas offer a multitude of avenues for livelihood, job opportunities in the hilly regions are exceptionally scarce, making it difficult for the local youth to sustain themselves.In hilly areas, livelihoods are intricately tied to factors like weather, wildlife, agriculture, and the absence of modern technology. Unfortunately, these factors cannot guarantee stable employment, leading to the persistent issue of unemployment. The state is grappling with a severe unemployment crisis, as job opportunities remain limited, forcing thousands of highly educated young individuals to work in menial labour positions.

Despite the government's efforts to address the issue of unemployment at various levels, the focus has increasingly shifted towards fostering self-employment. This includes initiatives such as PM-Daksh, MGNREGA, Prime Minister Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), and Start-up India. Additionally, subsidies are being extended to rural areas through various programs, with young individuals being sensitized to various skills through job fairs. In the past two and a half years, around 257 job fairs have been conducted in the state, resulting in employment for approximately 4,429 youths. A significant number of unemployed youths from rural areas actively participated in these fairs.

A concerning report from May of this year indicates that the unemployment rate in India rose to 8.11% in April, up from 7.8% in March. This statistic reveals that more people are entering the labour force than there are available jobs. This issue is particularly prevalent among rural youths, with 46.76 crore individuals in the country constituting the total labour force.

The stories of young individuals paint a bleak picture. Pankaj Singh, a young tempo driver in Haldwani in Nainital district, is a case in point. Despite passing his 10th-grade exams, he faced numerous setbacks when attempting to secure government jobs. Exams were often marred by paper leaks or other irregularities, leaving him perpetually disillusioned. To make ends meet, he briefly worked in a private company, but the harsh exploitation he faced there led him to leave and become a tempo driver. Many highly educated youngsters, facing limited employment opportunities, either struggle to find work or accept paltry wages.

In Almora district, Deewan Negi, a young resident of Sirauli village, offers a similar perspective. He notes that the wages offered for jobs provided through government schemes are minimal, considering the effort involved. He cites the MGNREGA scheme, revealing that the demand for jobs under this program increased by 43% in 2020-21 compared to the previous year. While some individuals did find work, they were often underpaid. Currently, the scheme offers a daily wage of only 232 rupees, while the average daily wage for labourers is around 450-500 rupees. Clearly, changes are needed in the government programs to adapt to the current landscape.

Pankaj Melkani, a taxi driver in Nainital with a higher education background, stresses the inadequacy of our education system in ensuring full employment for the educated. He suggests that the government should introduce vocational courses geared toward employment so that young people can transition into the workforce without grappling with unemployment post-education. Furthermore, he advocates for the promotion of local small-scale businesses, as rural communities possess the skills required for these endeavours. Such a policy shift would not only create jobs for young individuals at the local level but also present a sustainable solution to the problem of migration.

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