In a refreshing change, Bihar’s leaders are talking jobs; Why is it significant?

Bihar has been identified by insignificant private investment, poor quality of education, deficient infrastructure and tattered rule of law. The state fares worst in almost all social progress index.

The Ganga Times Image. Bihar Election.

When Tejashwi Yadav, leader of opposition in Bihar vidhan sabha and Mahagathbandhan’s chief ministerial candidate, promised 10 lakh jobs to Bihar’s youth, it was mocked by Nitish Kumar as being ‘unrealistic’. Later, JDU’s alliance partner BJP tried to outdo it by throwing the ‘19 lakh jobs’ dice, much to the embarrassment of JDU and Bihar CM. Notwithstanding the political and social vitriol in Bihar, the insanity over throwing employment cards in the 2020 election shows how big the problem of unemployment in the state is.

‘At least they are talking jobs, and not caste dominance’ — the one thing Bihar has been lacking for decades.

Bihar leads the unemployment rate chart in India

With 10.2% of unemployment rate, Bihar is way above the national average of 5.8%, according to the 2018-19 Periodic Labour Force Survey. What is even more worrying is the constant worsening of the relative joblessness figures for Bihar. The state’s unemployment rate with respect to the all-India average nearly doubled between 2004-05 and 2011-12 — from being ⅘ times the national average to 8/5 times. 

Reality check of Bihar’s jobs

Although Bihar’s unemployment rate is 7.2%, it still doesn’t reflect the ground reality. This is even true in the pan-India case. In India, a person in the managerial post with job security and a construction worker with no job guarantee, both are counted as employed, irrespective of the quality of jobs. Talking about regular jobs, about 24% of India’s workforce have a salaried job, while the number is just above 10% in case of Bihar. Despite Nitish Kumar’s commendable efforts in boosting Biharis’ financial status, lack of jobs and migration issue raise questions over the state’s employment infrastructure.

Migration and the election 2020

According to data from multiple reports, over one-third of Bihar’s economy is contributed by migrant remittances. The nation-wide lockdown after the spread of Coronavirus forced these migrant labourers to return to their state, leaving them with no regular source of employment. Plus, those pictures of migrants returning on foot brought immense humiliation to the state’s already torn image. With so many disappointed voters, it is natural for leaders to talk about jobs and the economy, completely transforming the public discourse away from caste, religion, Pakistan – which has been dominating in the past.

What castes and classes used to divide, jobs have united. It’s a good sign for the state of Bihar with over 10 crore people. It’s a welcome change that leaders are promising things that will improve their standard of living, and not that satisfy their ego.

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