ByÂ Atul Kumar Jain:
The issue of unemployment embraces the entire society–its values, culture and attitudes. Unfortunately, millions of people in South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America suffer from the curse of un-employment and are doomed to live in extreme poverty without even the basic amenities of life. We too, in India, have at least 4 to 5 crore citizens in remote rural areas without employment living in abject poverty, illiteracy and absolute lack of health care.
The Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC), a major Central govt undertaking, having annual budgetary allocations of around Rs 3000 crore was established by the KVIC Act 1956 ,with the avowed objective of “promotion and development of Khadi and village industries for providing non-farm sustainable employment opportunities in rural areas at low per capita investment thereby strengthening the rural economy” since neither the public nor the private sector can provide any means of production in their hands, it is Gandhi’s little Charkha alone which can do so.
However, little has been achieved by KVIC during the last 58 years of its tenure. Popularly considered unviable and impractical, it appears that it has been kept alive by the government merely as a token of respect to Gandhiji in as much as according to the 2007 report of the government Labour Bureau, 4 crore of our labour force of 40 crore between the working age group of 16 to 59 years out of our 120 crore population still remained unemployed.
Most governments tend to think that some unemployment is inevitable. Even certain South -European and East- European countries suffer from this ailment. However, the World Academy of Arts And Sciences has issued their Declaration on Full Employment, strongly asserting that “concerted decision, commitment and determination by all parties can eliminate unemployment.”
My project, head-lined above, specifically designed for India, has strategically armed the non-violent Charkha based Gandhian economics with the Keynesian economic doctrine which propounds that “deliberate govt action can foster full employment by directly influencing demand for goods and services by altering tax policies and public expenditure.” The broad outlines of my project are as here-under and besides brightening the face of rural India it guarantees full employment to every Indian. Obviously, different settings and tools for creating employment opportunities for the unemployed in other regions of the world will have to be designed.
The total number of districts in India is about 640,each having a District Panchayat, under which there are on an average 10 Block Panchayats, each again having on an average 40 Village Panchayats, totalling 2,56,000 Village Panchayats in all, as conceived by our late Prime Minister, Sri Rajeev Gandhi.
The idea is to establish in each set of five contiguous village Panchayats, one SSI unit each, with Bank loan duly guaranteed by the government and equipped with latest models of multi-spindle spinning wheels, pit loom, dyeing units, standby diesel generating set, godowns for raw materials and finished goods, besides facilities for other village tiny and small industries, bee-keeping, dairy, black-smithy and carpentry etc. as may be found suitable for different regions of the country, to provide multiple employment choices to every unemployed man and woman resident there.
Roughly assuming Rs 40 lac as the cost of each such SSI unit, the total one time outlay on 53.200 SSI units would be around Rs 21,280 crore. Quite reasonable if we consider the annual outlay of Rs.40,400 crore on MNREGA which does not generate any sustainable employment opportunity.
Instead of one time go, this project can easily be staggered and implemented, on trial basis, in selected States/ districts/blocks with proportionately reduced financial outlay, The cost of generation of employment opportunity per unemployed person works out to Rs.5,320/-only, each SSI unit working two shifts providing diverse job openings to 375 unemployed persons of the set of five contiguous villages per shift as mentioned above.
No constitutional or legislative processes would be involved in its implementation. It is only a strategy to be approved and adopted by the government and can be activated with immediate effect since all peripheral institutions and related departments like KVIC, State KVI Boards and State/District/Block/Village level Panchayat raj set-ups already exist, probably waiting for this core project to emerge guaranteeing full employment to our country men.
No heavy annual budgetary provisions and grants would be required for setting up this vast, widely dispersed and highly labour intensive national net work of village panchayat based Khadi & Village Industrial units, which henceforth I would love to call MAHATMA GANDHI KHADI & VILLAGE INDUSTRIES (MKVI).
No fear at all regarding full economic viability of the MKVI units; courtesy the aforesaid Keynesian doctrine. Our new measure of economic progress would be Human happiness and wellbeing.
Problems regarding financing and economic viability mentioned above have easy solutions as explained below:
a) Each village Panchayat manufacturing unit can easily avail Term Loan, Working capital loan and Cash Credit facilities from scheduled Banks duly guaranteed by the government as per normal banking practices.
b) As for assured economic viability we have to rely on the universally accepted Keynesian doctrine “General theory of employment, interest and money” which says that “…deliberate government action can foster full employment by directly influencing demand for goods and services by altering tax policies and public expenditure…” as already mentioned above.
Without doubt MKVI would be capable of producing only major %age of rough and medium quality and minor %age of fine quality textiles and small/simple industrial products. That is why the “Program Evaluation Org” of the Planning Commission, March 2001 mentioned in its report that Â “the major problem encountered with KVIC products is regarding Marketing and Sales.” “OK!! So what?” says my project–the State would intervene, alter Excise duty, Sales tax, subsidise, ban production of similar range by large units and issue orders for compulsory use of MKVI products in form of curtains, bed covers, towels and uniforms of peons and constables, by all government offices and departments, PSUs, Rays and Defence as far as practicable. Similarly, requirement of small/simple industrial items of all the aforesaid departments would be ascertained in advance so as to be ordered and procured from the Village Industrial units. These special measures would offer no problems at all for the government in view of the sanctity of the purpose behind them.
Of course, the nation will have to be mentally conditioned to accept instead of the current single bottom line of money in the national balance sheet, a triple bottom line i.e.
2. Social happiness and wellbeing.
which may result in a little lower GDP growth eschewing the international mad rush for ill-gotten higher growth rates based on the detestable Carbon economy and the critical depletion of natural resources, as so emphatically stressed by President Sarkosy of France, one of the five Super powers in the world. Our own late J R D Tata expressed a similar view as follows after receiving our nation’s highest honour ‘Bharat Rantna’ in 1992:“I do not want India to be an economic super power. I want India to be a happy country”.
Smt Sonia Gandhi’s unique MNREGA with an annual budgetary provision of Rs 40,400 crore is in full operation and provides one person of each rural family 100 days of employment in a year at Rs 100/-per day. This is certainly a big relief to the vast number of our unemployed countrymen but it still falls short of the ultimate target of full employment. It is hoped that the Congress party and the government would approve this project, which does not need any budgetary provision, and implement it so that in due course it may replace MNREGA and save the enormous present annual outlay on it.
This new strategic program is based on the ideal curve in the graph of the two major variables, sustainable economic prosperity and human happiness. And once the government implements it, the ethereal music of millions of spinning wheels and the accompanying billions of beats of the shuttles of matching number of weaving looms would reverberate through the 53,200 MKVI units–“modern temples” in the historic words of our beloved late Prime Minister Pt.Nehru-across our land, providing every single citizen, man or woman, with work and his daily bread .