One may not agree with the style of functioning of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray. He once advised migrants from UP and Bihar that they should insist on their respective governments creating jobs within those States and not force the unemployed lot to rush to Mumbai. Why Mumbai alone? Increasing pressure on urban infrastructure and logistics is of course a national problem. Successive governments across all the states have been emphasizing on providing ‘local jobs’ but doing nothing much about it. Uttar Pradesh was no different.
But the latest trends show that UP is trying hard to shed the Bimaru image and retain its labour force. According to the latest report by CMIE (Center for Monitoring Indian Economy), the unemployment rate in the state has come down to 4.1 percent on February 28, 2021 from 17.5 percent in 2017. On the migrant labour crisis, we have seen UP stretching itself to ensure that all those returning to the state are dealt with due respect. The State’s jobs-to-all policy has proved beneficial for lakhs of migrant workers who returned to UP from different cities. About 11 lakh of migrants including women were given jobs in MNREGS works. Setting a record even during the trying times of Corona, the State has created 26.14 crore man-days in MNREGS works, thus achieving its annual target in just six months. In another landmark, as many as 62.25 lakh MNREGS labourers were employed on a single day on June 26, 2020. Result: not many of those migrants who went to UP have returned to Mumbai or Delhi. Cities like Mumbai are yet to overcome the labour shortage that started during the migrant crisis. For that matter, even most of the security guards of UP origin and employed at Mumbai housing societies are yet to report back their duties. So, has UP suddenly become self-sufficient in terms of employment?
Officials say, while battling the pandemic UP is parallelly focusing on development. It is building the country’s largest Rs 30,000 crore Noida International Greenfield Airport at Jewar, with six runways, spread across 5,000 acres. The state Government has signed a concessionaire agreement with Yamuna International Airport Ltd, SPV of Zurich Airport International AG, based in Kloten, Switzerland. Then the series of road works such as the 341 km Purvanchal Expressway, 297 km Bundelkhand Expressway, 594 Km Ganga Expressway and 91 km Gorakhpur Expressway; The highway work will not only create employment along the routes but is bound to bring in social-economic development. The 1,500 km Varanasi-Haldia waterway, said to be the only national waterway in India, is proving its utility during the current Corona period as it turns out to be one of the safest and most useful ways for transporting vegetables and fruits on a large scale. Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh, which has faced 11 droughts in the last two decades, is undergoing a sea of change in terms of availability of water through some ground-breaking efforts for Rain Water Harvesting and Management.
State Investor summits bring in a flood of promises and MoUs. But UP says it has a different story. While MoUs has been signed for 4.68 lakh crore at the recent investor summit, work has already started on projects worth Rs 3 lakh crores. Even during the pandemic, UP began working on proposals on projects worth more than 50 thousand crores. We hear big brands such as Microsoft, Samsung, Lulu, Ikea and Hiranandani entering UP as the state improved its ranking to Number 2 from the previous 12 in terms of ease of doing business.
The One District – One Product scheme designed by the Centre finds a new interesting twist in UP. There are many UP products that are found nowhere else – like the ancient and nutritious 'Kala namak' rice, the rare and intriguing wheat-stalk craft, world-famous chikankari and zari-zardozi work on clothes, and the intricate and stunning horn and bone work that uses the remains of dead animals rather than live ones, a nature-friendly replacement for ivory. Many of these products are GI-tagged, which means they are certified as being specific to that region in Uttar Pradesh. The government aims to preserve the unique crafts, increase incomes and employment and work on skill development to face global competition.
The government is running Mission Rojgar to provide jobs to the youth of the state. Five lakh youths have been employed in start-up units whereas more than three lakh youths have been given jobs in large industrial units. Under the Pradhan Mantri Swanidhi Yojana, 8.32 lakh urban street vendors have been given loans for business. Out of these, working capital has been provided to 375 lakh track shopkeepers. As many as 28 percent of the beneficiaries of these are women. Similarly, IT parks are being constructed in districts to create 15,000 jobs.
Remember, the legislative assembly elections are due in Uttar Pradesh in less than a year and CM Yogi Adityanath will be seeking a second term. He cannot afford to take any steps that can boomerang. The West Bengal election results show that the Amit Shah type templated strategy would not work. Trinamool showed grassroot does matter. Yogi has to focus on development – the ‘Vikas’ model that Modi talks about and the infrastructure model that Nitin Gadkari implements.
My contacts in the UP government tell me that Yogi is a ruthless ruler. He ought to be, considering the massiveness of issues that is associated with UP. Small wonder, the huge statistics that emanate from Lucknow are seen with suspicion. Media says Yogi's image has taken a beating. Show me one Uttar Pradesh CM whose image has not taken a beating. Twitter posts might be manipulated but not the ground realities. That probably justifies the ruthless manner in which Yogi has been working on ‘local vocal’ front.
Has Yogi been able take COVID by its thorns? The World Health Organisation reports on its website that Uttar Pradesh is going to the last mile to stop COVID. Government teams have moved across 97,941 villages in 75 districts over five days from May 5 in India’s most populous state with 230 million people. The WHO was coordinating this till the preparation of the final report. ‘Mera Gaon Corona Mukt Gaon’ campaign is focusing on aggressive test, trace and treat strategy. The Niti Aayog’s grim predictions about Uttar Pradesh regarding spike COVID-19 cases by the end of April have turned out to be wrong. The Aayog had forecast that the state would report on an average 119,000 Covid-19 cases daily by April 30 leaving even Delhi and Maharashtra far behind in terms of number of cases, but thankfully it did not happen. On the contrary, the State has made a drastic improvement in the past 20 days to reduce the numbers from 38,000 to 7,000 daily, Yogi says.
Fudging data? Not possible says his government machinery, as the numbers are fed into a centrally monitored system. The officials do not get rattled at the criticism and say “We know our facts. Positivity rate was high and the recovery rate was low, but in the last 20 days, as many as 2.04 lakh people have recovered and discharged from hospitals across the state.” While dealing with the second wave of COVID-19, the state is setting up at least 100 Paediatric beds in every state which has been appreciated by paediatricians such as Dr. Salman Khan, of Lucknow’s Dufferin Hospital.
For all these efforts, Team Yogi deserves to be given a fair chance to prove themselves and they are literally running against time to show some results. They have just eight months to go before the elections.
(B N Kumar is a Mumbai-based media professional)