Maintaining that there is rising inequality among the different classes of society, former President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday said rapid economic growth witnessed by the country has not been reflected in the job sector and “jobless growth is not growth when it comes to India”. Mukherjee was speaking on ‘India’s journey towards inclusive growth’ at the Dr M Visvesvaraya Memorial Lecture at World Trade Centre in Mumbai.
Stressing on the need for inclusiveness, he said: “India has achieved spectacular progress in the last couple of decades with sustained economic growth of around 6.8 per cent annually. But growth has to be more inclusive. There is rising inequality among the different classes of the society, which cannot go on.”
Referring to the statistics of the National Sample Survey Organisation, he said while the top 10 per cent of the population owns 61.51 per cent of the assets, the bottom 50 per cent shares only 4.77 per cent of the same. Furthermore, the World Inequality Report of 2018 has stated that the top 10 per cent holds 54.2 per cent of the national share in income while the bottom 50 per cent has only 15.3 per cent. “This gap is huge. It is evident from these figures that the trickle-down theory is no answer to the problem,” he added. “Moreover, rapid economic growth has also not reflected itself fully in corresponding rise in employment. In my opinion, a jobless growth is no growth for Indian situation,” he said.
Admitting that India, with 1.2 billion people, has a huge demographic advantage to drive economic growth, he said: “Around 63.5 million people in the age group of 20 to 35 years have entered the workforce in the last five years… it is estimated that by 2020, over 50 per cent of the population would be below 25. Lest we generate jobs, the demographic dividend runs the risk of turning into a demographic disaster.” Mukherjee stressed that poverty and employment have remained the central challenge facing policy makers.
Expressing concern over lack of education quality, he said all international reckoning for Indian students have come from Havard, Cambridge and Trinity and such colleges abroad. “India has plenty of talent and expertise. But lack of quality educational infrastructure and research centres have deprived students at home to maximise their potential,” he added. “It should be a serious concern why despite having so many institutions, we have failed to provide quality education. There are expectations… Focus should be on quantity but quality.”
“We have 14.2 lakh educational institutions, more than 38,056 colleges and around 760 universities. Mass education of youth and their gainful employment … is central for capitalising on India’s demographic dividend. This remains a major challenge… Our system must focus on vocational training and skill development… At the same time, our system must have a robust research component that can refurbish the curriculum with market relevant requirements,” said Mukherjee.
Lauding the increase in food production, Mukherjee advocated massive investment in the agriculture sector. “…We will have to make agriculture more remunerative… One sure shot way of achieving this is to cut intermediaries and link the farming sector directly to consumer markets. This will have to be supplemented with ample and modern storage facilities, apart from accessibility to affordable quality transport.”