The numbers coming out of the NSSO report, held back by the government and published by a newspaper, indicate several failures on the employment front. While unemployment rate is above 6 percent, the labour force participation rate too, has plunged to a historic low of 37 percent.
However, beyond these obvious numbers lie the true extent of the rot. It is now evident that demonetisation disrupted the job market massively.
Also, women received more of a raw deal as they withdrew themselves from the job market to take care of the household.
The scenario is slightly better in rural pockets than that in the urban areas, because people are quitting agriculture and migrating to cities in search of new jobs.
The focal point of the development is something that has come to the fore time and again – the current government either masks data or fudges it or simply denies its viability.
It is obvious that the government will attempt similar spin doctoring on this occasion too. However, it needs to be considered that the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) had also revealed similar figures recently.
The government will definitely say the data is inaccurate to contain the political implications. Further, it will try to highlight the number of beneficiaries of its welfare schemes like Ujjwala and Mudra. However, the data on these schemes are not beyond doubt either.
For example, the Ujjwala scheme benefited 6 crore people in the first tranche. However, even an RTI will not reveal how many of them have continued to take LPG cylinders under the scheme. Thus, there is an absolute absence of confidence on government data.
Let us look at the scenario from yet another perspective which shows that the government is both arrogant and scared. The report that has come to light now was ready in June 2018 and could have been released in September-October last year.
The government’s neglect towards the data frustrated the two members of the National Statistics Commission (NSC), including its Chairman, to such an extent that they eventually resigned from the body.
This shows that the government is least inclined to recognise a damning data which has come out of its own stable. Instead, it is more interested in drum beating in the election season.
However, the government should keep in mind that a person who is unemployed does not need data to be appraised of his situation. No amount of propaganda will be enough to make a person believe that his rural income has gone up, when in reality it hasn't.
In a nutshell, what this data reiterates is that demonetisation was a decision driven by ignorance and arrogance. It remains to be be seen if the government will have to bear the political brunt of this decision but on the economic front, it has definitely left the country in a shambles.