A private member’s Bill — seeking to make the right to work a fundamental right and providing for allowance to the unemployed — may have been rejected in the Rajya Sabha, but it brought the issue of rising unemployment into focus in the House.
Samajwadi Party’s Vishambhar Prasad Nishad, a Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh, insisted on a vote on his private member’s Bill. With barely 40 MPs present, the Bill — a constitutional amendment — needed two-thirds of the total vote. It was rejected by a narrow margin: 21 to 18.
Only 14 private member’s Bills have been passed in India, the last in 1968.
At least 10 members of the House put forward their ideas on the Bill — and on the issue of unemployment and underemployment. Opposition MPs attacked the government for failing to deliver jobs to a bourgeoning youth population, and on the rising inequality.
Congress’s Ananda Bhaskar Rapolu mentioned that the top 1 per cent of the richest Indians control 59 per cent of the country’s wealth, and the top 10 per cent own 80 per cent. Jobless growth is leading to a frustrated and pessimistic young population, Opposition leaders said.
Demonetisation and GST has also had an adverse impact, with many losing their private sector jobs because of these two policies of the Modi government, members from opposition parties said.
Congress MP Chhaya Verma mentioned that in her state — Chhattisgarh — the Raman Singh government deducts 18 per cent GST from wages paid under the MGNREGA.
Various members highlighted that thousands of applications are received for each government job. Nishad said that in 2015 in UP, 50 lakh applications were received for 13,684 lower-level government posts.
BJP members highlighted the Prime Minister’s Make in India, Skill India, Stand Up India and Mudra schemes, among others.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment (independent charge) Santosh Kumar Gangwar said that while the issue is important, there is no need for a change in the law. He said the Directive Principles of the Constitution mention that the government of the day must make policies to ensure that citizens have opportunities for employment.
The minister mentioned figures on money disbursed under Mudra Yojana in the last two years to help people become self-employed, and said the government had increased the budget for MGNREGA.
The government is aware of the issue and is working with complete sensitivity so that the country can go forward in the right direction, Gangwar said.