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Comprehend reality

Comprehend reality
Highlights

The other day in Hyderabad, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hammered home that agriculture was barely providing subsistence to farmers. He averred the country couldn’t afford to have 55 per cent of its people dependent on so unpredictable an occupation. He quipped agriculture’s contribution to national GDP was hardly 16 per cent.  

The other day in Hyderabad, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hammered home that agriculture was barely providing subsistence to farmers. He averred the country couldn’t afford to have 55 per cent of its people dependent on so unpredictable an occupation. He quipped agriculture’s contribution to national GDP was hardly 16 per cent.

Manufacturing, too, stagnating at 17 per cent, needed to raise its share in GDP to 25 per cent to be a gainful employer. It would be a long haul for the country to get there. Jaitley stressed services sector growth as panacea for agriculture distress and industry slump. India is a hub for services, which should be nation’s mainstay to push growth and provide jobs, he said.

Yes, Jaitley is correct. Distressed year after year, due to natural calamities and government apathy, a majority of farmers would like to call it quits. As far as back in 2014, CSDS, a Delhi-based NGO, said over 76 per cent cultivators were ready to give it up. If the farmers can’t quit, it is due to their helplessness to be good at any other job.

Hence, they are increasingly turning manual labourers, especially under MGNREGA. Cultivators are decreasing and agricultural labourers are increasing, various studies have already reported. It’s natural they do not want their wards to take up plough, but go to urban spaces for education and jobs.

However, depending largely on services would not suffice. A US research body, HfS Research, has cautioned India’s IT sector would lose about 6.4 lakh ‘low-skilled’ jobs due to automation by 2021. This underscores the need for greater industrialisation, urbanisation, services growth etc., and these sectors have to be globally competitive, too.

The NSSO way back in 2009-2010 said 93 per cent of workforce is in informal or unorganised sector which contributes 50 per cent of GDP. But, various analyses said not more than 2 per cent of entire workforce is formally skilled in India. This puts onus on the government not only to skill the youth to avert demographic disaster.

It should also rejuvenate SMEs which account for nearly half of workforce. If attended to, they have a great potential to create jobs, and raise their share in exports from the current 40 per cent.

While vigorously pursuing reforms to reinvigorate other sectors, the government should not write off the agriculture sector – only its revival can spur rural demand for industries. Government should rather attempt to decrease the numbers dependent on farm sector.

In May, President Mukherjee said: “The Indian economy today needs to generate 115 million non-farm jobs over the next decade to gainfully employ its workforce and reap its demographic dividend.” But, imparting of employable skills to the rural youth is contingent upon their quality basic education.

If farmers want their wards not to take up plough, but go to towns and cities, it is for good education and skills. The new education policy in the works should focus on this.

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