Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar chose Independence Day to announce creation of 20 lakh jobs within and outside the government. The tall task of that resolve — coming days after he tied up with the RJD that had made 10 lakh jobs a poll promise — was evident in the way Nitish made it.
The job promise came at the very end of his I-Day speech, without any details regarding how it would be met. In the case of the private sector, there were no announcements regarding any new industrial investments, which would be pre-requisite of any such job creation.
Among the largest job recruitments under Nitish has been the appointment of over 4 lakh contract teachers, but there has been no substantial government hiring. This holds true for other sectors too, such as health and social welfare. The only major government jobs in the last 16 years have come up in the police, with some 40,000 posts, most of them of constables, filled. All in all, it is a far cry from the 20 lakh jobs promise.
In a state that only recently saw huge protests over the changed new Army recruitment scheme, that has curtailed what a job in the forces means for many, and earlier saw violence over yet another cancelled railway job exam, Nitish’s assurance will be taken with a pinch of salt.
In fact, it seemed to be for the ears of only one person, RJD leader and his Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav. During the 2020 Assembly elections when he spearheaded the RJD, Tejashwi had got much traction among youths with his 10 lakh job promise, with the party emerging as the single largest in the state.
Nitish also cleverly chose that figure of “20 lakh jobs”, just a little more than what the BJP had talked about during the polls — “19 lakh jobs”, to counter Tejashwi’s poll talk.
With questions chasing him over that employment promise, now that he is in a position to do something about it, Tejashwi has been trying to hedge his bets. In one of his media interactions recently, he said that he could be held accountable for that promise “if I become CM”. At the same time, he told The Indian Express that “job creation was among my top priorities”. Sources said the topic of jobs was one of the first that Tejashwi and Nitish talked about as part of their arrangement.
So where would the lakhs of government jobs come from? There could be appointment of some 30,000-odd more police personnel in coming years. Another one lakh contractual teachers could be also appointed. There could be appointment of some 5,000-odd doctors and 20,000 plus paramedics and subsidiary health staffers. But that still makes it two-three lakh jobs, with most of the positions contractual.
When Tejashwi had announced 10 lakh jobs, the calculation was that there were five lakh vacancies that would be filled, and another five lakh jobs would be created.
Even if the government found a way to 20 lakh jobs, the million dollar question is if the state has enough funds to do large-scale hiring, with revenue generation further falling under Covid in the past two years. Teachers’ salaries are often delayed by several months in the state.
On the investment front, Nitish had been appreciative of the efforts of Shahnawaz Hussain, his industry minister under the JD(U)-BJP government. Purnia got the country’s first greenfield ethanol plant, and 16 more plants are scheduled to come up. Food processing, textile, leather and IT sectors have several small and medium industries planned. Plus, over 200 start-ups are at different stages.
However, there are no immediate gains from any of this, evident also in the government’s vagueness on a break-up regarding the promised jobs, or a deadline on when these would be created.
While Nitish might have placated Tejashwi, and taken some heat off the younger leader with his 20 lakh promise, as the target seems further and further away, the BJP will be watching closely. Could the job promise prove to be the proverbial albatross around the necks of Nitish and his deputy?