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Bengal election: Where are the jobs?

As West Bengal approaches voting day, chief minister Mamata Banerjee is more and more bragging about having created 12 million jobs throughout her 10-year rule. Trinamool Congress (TMC) billboards in Kolkata laud her for drastically decreasing the state’s unemployment fee. These claims fly in the face of some relatively grim knowledge that Mamata’s rivals are utilizing to query her report card on employment and livelihood creation, particularly for the youth.

As of date, the state’s employment exchanges have practically 3.5 million registered job-seekers, having added 100,000 folks in 2020 alone. Data from authorities departments signifies that over 200,000 everlasting posts are vacant. Another 150,000 instructing posts in authorities faculties are but to be crammed. If it’s any comfort, many states have achieved worse, together with, for instance, extremely industrialised Haryana, the place unemployment stood at a staggering 26.4 per cent in February 2021, in line with the CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy). At 6.9 per cent, the nationwide common for the similar month was additionally marginally worse than West Bengal’s 6.2 per cent.

It’s not as if no authorities jobs had been created in Bengal, however critics argue that the bulk of it had been contractual. “In the past decade, instead of permanent appointments, more than 200,000 people were hired as contract or casual (no work, no pay) workers in the government,” says a former state bureaucrat, on situation of anonymity. Moloy Mukherjee, basic secretary of the Congress-affiliated Confederation of State Government Employees, claims that by recruiting 225,000 folks on contract or informal foundation, together with superannuated staff, the Mamata authorities has saved greater than half the expense of getting everlasting workers. Adds the former bureaucrat, “The expenses on contractual workforce have been around Rs 2,000 crore a year whereas permanent employees would have cost the state exchequer over Rs 4,500 crore a year.”

With a debt burden of Rs 4.31 lakh crore and over Rs 55,000 crore spent on debt servicing in 2019-20, the Mamata authorities maybe didn’t have the fiscal elbow room to do any higher. “For 2020-21, the government is spending around Rs 5,000 crore a month on the salaries of 800,000 government employees,” says a state finance division official. This is regardless of the variety of everlasting authorities staff falling over the years, as a result of Sixth Pay Commission grades have been launched and dearness allowance has been elevated. The final Left Front authorities had spent about Rs 3,000 crore a month on the salaries of one million authorities staff and pensioners.

Contractual authorities service in Bengal is broadly of three varieties. In the first class are these staff who draw meagre salaries however are entitled to the similar variety of leaves as common workers, a 3 per cent annual increment, continuity of service until age 60 and a one-time grant of Rs 3 lakh on retirement. Another class is of contract staff on the rolls via a authorities company, WEBEL (West Bengal Electronics Industry Development Corporation Limited), and principally appointed to decrease grade posts, comparable to clerks and peons.

A 3rd class of employment is on no work, no pay foundation and principally consists of residence guards and peons. Apart from this, ‘data entry operators’ are additionally employed, albeit on piecemeal foundation and allegedly on the suggestions of politicians. According to a state finance official, what complicates the job hunt is that contractual/ informal positions are hardly ever marketed in distinguished dailies and the adverts don’t at all times explicitly point out that the hiring is for the authorities.

Recruitments are typically not clear. In 2013, the Mamata authorities introduced it might appoint 130,000 civic police volunteers on contract to assist with site visitors regulation, crowd administration and different duties. This whilst the police division was battling an acute manpower scarcity and 37,000 sanctioned posts lay vacant. In 2016, the Calcutta High Court censured the civic police appointments as arbitrary. Citing the case of a police station in Bankura district, the choose listening to the case puzzled how 1,464 candidates may have been interviewed and appointment letters issued to the profitable ones inside 24 hours. The court docket declared the complete recruitment void and instructed the authorities to streamline it.

A 12 months on, when the Mamata authorities challenged the order, Calcutta High Court performing chief justice Nishita Matre needed to understand how the administration anticipated the civic police volunteers to complement the short-staffed state police with out being given ample powers. Last November, a court docket petition sought restraint orders on civic police hires by the state authorities, alleging the ulterior motive of misusing them throughout the meeting ballot.

Experts extra kindly inclined to the cash-strapped state authorities’s efforts to mitigate the jobs disaster really feel it deserves reward. “The government has ensured continuity of service for contractual staff, which is almost the same as holding a permanent job. Given the huge pool of unemployed people and the limited financial resources, the government adopted the strategy of providing jobs to as many as possible by accommodating three people against one post,” says Abhirup Sarkar, professor of economics at the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. Sarkar has headed a number of advisory committees of the state finance division.

Refuting the cost of widespread unemployment beneath Mamata’s rule, schooling minister Partha Chatterjee says: “Around 16.3 million people got 2,493 million man-days of work under MGNREGA. There are nearly 8.9 million small businesses operational in Bengal today, which employ 13.5 million people compared to 3.46 million in 2012. The number of factories has shown a 15 per cent increase (between 2010 and 2020) and the average earnings of factory workers are up 77 per cent.”

While Chatterjee’s schooling division has provisioned for top variety of contractual jobs at the Group D (lowest rung) degree, 1000’s of school-teaching posts stay vacant. In November final 12 months, Mamata introduced that 16,500 main/ higher main instructing posts can be crammed from amongst the 20,000 who had cleared the Teacher Eligibility Test, however the pre-election transfer was stalled via a excessive court docket petition.

Apart from this, some 30,000 MPhils and doctorates are hoping to be empanelled as school academics via the West Bengal College Service Commission. One such aspirant from Daspur in West Midnapore, whose wait has been 4 years lengthy, alleges rampant corruption in the course of. “In my village, ruling party leaders demand hefty bribes to get anyone empanelled, Rs 10-15 lakh for primary/ upper primary teaching posts and Rs 25-40 lakh for college teaching posts,” he says. A retired authorities worker in East Midnapore claims younger males in his village needed to pay lakhs to get civic police appointments. “First, they paid bribes to be recruited, and now give ‘hafta’ from their monthly salaries. Do you think they will still vote for the ruling party?” he asks.

Indrajit Ghosh, a pacesetter of the CPI(M)-affiliated Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), alleges that recruitment scams are not restricted to the schooling division, and that even query papers of the West Bengal Civil Services (WBCS) examination get leaked. “The candidate who topped the 2017 WBCS exam had secured 13 marks in the prelims while the cut-off was 126. He was going to be appointed when a hue and cry put a stop to it,” claims Ghosh.

The job hunt has been equally arduous for scores of others. Around 1.3 million candidates to authorities clerical posts haven’t obtained a name since 2018. Another 600,000 who utilized for the posts of police constable and sub-inspector haven’t had a lot luck both. Shrinking prospects have compelled even the well-educated to use for unconventional jobs, comparable to of useless body-handlers in the autopsy wing at Malda Medical College in 2017. “Around 300 people had applied for two vacancies. Each one was a graduate and one out of every four was highly educated,” says P. Kundu, principal, Malda Medical College.

The younger (age 18-35 years) make up practically half of Bengal’s 100 million inhabitants. Jobs and credible livelihood choices are what they aspire for relatively than subsisting on authorities doles and allowances, comparable to the Yuvasree help beneath which 181,000 unemployed folks are getting Rs 1,500 a month. A one-time help of Rs 1,000 introduced by the Mamata authorities final 12 months benefitted 223,000 migrant staff who returned to West Bengal throughout the Covid lockdown. While over Rs 22 crore has been spent on the scheme, conservative authorities estimates put the variety of migrant households at about 1.2 million. But a senior labour division official says the precise variety of migrants might be as excessive as 3-4 million.

The Mamata authorities additionally runs livelihood schemes for the unemployed and has prolonged credit score to 350,000 unemployed ladies to begin micro enterprises. Mamata’s thrust is on the IT hub at Rajarhat in North 24 Parganas. She has promised to usher in Rs 3,000 crore value of funding and create 40,000 IT jobs.

Against this, the BJP is promising the youth of Bengal actual financial empowerment and improvement via a “double-engine government” (BJP rule at the Centre and in states, like in Assam, Bihar and Tripura). At the March 7 rally in Kolkata, Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned ashol poriborton (actual change) will come to Bengal solely when alternatives open up for the youth and there’s industrial resurgence. He introduced that jobs can be created by wooing traders with trendy infrastructure. “Amit Shah has already assured Bengal that employment will be a big priority if the BJP comes to power. Government employees will get Seventh Pay Commission grades and women 33 per cent reservation in government jobs. Around 400,000 fishermen will be provided Rs 6,000 every year, like farmers,” says BJP chief Diptangshu Choudhury.

Mamata is countering the BJP’s guarantees by claiming that the Tripura authorities has resorted to large job cuts. “Take a train to Tripura, talk to rickshaw-pullers and grocers, and find out how they blundered by bringing the BJP to power,” a belligerent Mamata roared at a rally in Bardhaman on February 5. But what about the frequent chorus amongst Bengal’s youth: ‘Where are the jobs?’

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