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Parliament Winter Session: The Modi Govt’s Art and Craft of Evading Questions

When the Opposition asked for information on any issue, they received digressive answers from the government.

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How many government and non-government jobs were created in the last eight years?

"There are three metrics available for the survey of employment in the country. Firstly, there is the Periodic Labor Survey for employment in the general sector of the country which is conducted every quarter. I have presented the data in the answer. The unemployment rate in 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 was 5.8%, 4.8%, 4.2%, which shows that unemployment has come down.

The second survey is conducted by the Labour Bureau of the Government of India, which is headquartered in Chandigarh. Now we do two surveys. An institution-based survey and an area-based survey. The report of the institution-based survey is on the way. The quarterly report of the institution-based survey has come, in which, apart from agriculture, there are nine sectors like education, transport, manufacturing, etc. and information regarding job creation is present.

Thirdly, employment in the registered institutions is known from the PFO registration, it can also be concluded that the registration in the Provident Fund is continuously increasing in the country."

This question was asked by Aam Aadmi Party MP Ashok Kumar Mittal in the Rajya Sabha and was answered by Labour and Employment Minister Bhupendra Yadav.

A trend was seen in the winter session of the Indian Parliament which has just ended. When the Opposition asked for information on any issue, such digressive answers were given that would make one's head spin.
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The question was simple, that is, how many people were given employment in the last eight years. The answer that was provided was about the unemployment rate. And the data for the current year was also not cited, because it is disturbing. According to CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy), in 2022, except for July and September, the unemployment rate remained above 7 or 8 percent every month.

Subsequently, a question was asked on the rising unemployment of women in the country, and we receive the same ambiguous answer about how a lot is being done for them.

The Questions & Answers on MGNREGA: A Closer Look

In the Rajya Sabha on 21 December, the BJP MP from Gujarat, Dinesh Anavadiya, asked a question: How many laborers have been registered under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005) across the country and what are the district-wise details of Gujarat?

In response, Minister of State for Rural Development Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti said-

"From 2006 to 2014, 1660 crore labourers benefited under the scheme. After 2014 till date we have increased the amount under MNREGA. While from 2006 to 2014, the country has received Rs 2,13,220 crore under MGNREGS, while from 2014 till date a total of Rs 5,79,583 crore has been provided under the scheme."

The basic question is that how many people are getting work under MNREGA? But the answer is ambiguous. Ambigious because it is not a hidden thing from anyone that the budget of MNREGA has decreased year after year.

Only Rs 73,000 crore was given to this scheme for the financial year 2022-23. Last year too, it was reduced. However, when there was eventually more demand for work in rural areas, it was increased to Rs 98,000 crore. Here's the real thing.

Many experts say that Rs 2.64 lakh crore is needed to ensure the 100 days employment guarantee in this scheme. No wonder that despite the guarantee of 100 days, no state government is able to provide employment for those many days. According to the data of the Ministry of Rural Development, in the financial year 2021-22, on average only 50.03 days of employment could be given under this scheme in the country.

Talking to The Federal, NREGA Sangharsh Morcha activist Debmalya Nandi says that since there is a paucity of funds, the administration deliberately suppresses the demand for work. They say that with the current allocation of Rs 73,000 crore, only 30 days of employment can be guaranteed. A lot of this money also goes towards paying the balance of the previous years.

Do not get entangled in all these technicalities. There is a simple question. If there was employment in the village, then why would people be forced to migrate to the cities? We saw that due to the COVID-induced lockdown, the labourers were forced to return to their villages on foot after facing a lot of difficulties. But as soon as the lockdown opened, they again headed towards the city. What was the reason? The reason was that there was no employment in the village either.
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What about the corporate debt?

The AIMIM MP from Aurangabad, Imtiaz Jaleel, asked in the Lok Sabha that while the government is saying that it has waived corporate loans worth Rs 8.48 lakh crore in four years, it is not revealing for which companies it has waived off the loans. According to Imtiaz, the government has given a written reply that RBI is not allowed to reveal this information.

A major part of the winter session of Parliament was wasted because the Opposition wanted a discussion on the alleged intrusion of China into Arunachal, and some other information that the government was not ready to share.

There was an uproar in Parliament till the very last day, but the government did not budge.

The argument was that this is a national security issue. But why should they not discuss it properly at all?

In response to all the questions, the Defence Minister only said that the Chinese soldiers tried to cross the border, which was bravely stopped by the Indian Army. He added that our forces are committed to safeguarding our integrity. No one doubts the commitment of the army, but there were no other details in the statement.

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And the economy?

During the discussion on the budget demand, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said that between 1991 and 2014, the country's real GDP doubled every 10-12 years. Can the government state if the real GDP of the country will double in the ten years of the Modi government, that is, by 2024? The government did not give any clear answer to this.

The Finance Minister said that in the last five years of the Modi government, you also have to keep the pandemic in mind. But despite all this, she claimed that the government will be close to doubling the GDP between 2014 and 2024. There was, however, little confidence in the answer.

Chidambaram also asked the question that out of the four engines of growth (government spending, private consumption, private investment, and exports), the last three are slow. Why so? The government did not speak plainly. Chidambaram also asked that when whole world is staring at a recession, in such a situation, what has the government done to prepare itself? Once again, no clear answer.

Additionally, Aam Aadmi Party MP Raghav Chadha said that the government has come to the House to ask for additional money, so the government should also say what it has achieved by spending the approved Rs 40 lakh crore in the budget, because the economy indeed is suffering.

In response to the questions of Chidambaram and Chadha, the Finance Minister said that all international agencies are concluding that India is the only shining star in the recession and a ray of hope for the economy of the whole world.
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The problem is that the game of life cannot be won by juggling numbers. The basic questions are very simple. Their answers are not.

If all is well, then

  • Why is there record unemployment?

  • Why are exports not increasing despite schemes like Make in India, and Production Linked Incentive?

  • Why is the government in record debt?

  • Why are people suffering due to inflation?

  • Why farmers' deaths due to suicide are not stopping?

It is well-established that if there is COVID, that if there is the Russia-Ukraine war, then growth will be affected. But then don't say that amazing progress is happening.

If there has been unprecedented development in ten years, then why does the government have to extend the duration of free ration schemes again and again? And now, even the PMGKY (PM Garib Kalyan Yojana) has been merged with NFSA (National Food Safety Act 2013).

This means that now 81 crore people will get 35 kilograms of food grains free of cost for the next one year. So if 'unprecedented' development has taken place in the last 9 years, then why is the public dependent only on the free schemes? If you stop and think about the population of 81 crore, then you will understand that it is more than half of India's population. If the government believes that more than half of our population is not even earning enough to muster two meals a day, then how can there be any claims of progress and development?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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