Jaipur: The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has left a bitter aftertaste for Rajasthan with the unemployment rate hitting a record high of 28 percent, the second highest in the country.
As per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), Rajasthan’s unemployment rate for December 2020 is 28.2 percent, second after Haryana's 32.5 percent and four times the national average. The national unemployment rate is 6.5 percent till January 30, 2021, as per the CMIE. The urban unemployment rate is 8.2 percent and the rural rate is 5.7 percent.
CMIE’s month-on-month data shows that Rajasthan’s unemployment rate is highest since January 2016. Before this, the rate touched a high of 24.1 percent in October 2020.
A major reason for the spike in the unemployment rate is the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown which crippled the economy and led to massive losses in employment and livelihoods.
The BJP has hit out at the ruling Congress government for its failure to generate employment. State BJP president Satish Poonia said the government has not fulfilled promises that were made in the Congress manifesto.
"Thousands of recruitments are pending. The goverment promised contractual employment to 2.5 lakh candidates which has not fructified. All their empty talk is reflecting in the unemployment figures," he said.
Tourism, which is a major revenue and employment generator in Rajasthan, was totally shut down in the last one year and its impact can be seen in the numbers.
Randhir Vikram Singh, the president of the Indian Heritage Hotels Association, said 22 percent of the state’s workforce and 30 percent of the state’s GDP comes from the tourism industry but the government has never taken it seriously.
“Almost 97 percent of tourism collapsed during the pandemic and it will take a couple of years for it to revive. Neither the state nor the central government has offered any package to help the industry,” he said.
Singh pointed out that tourism has a multiplier effect on other industries and each tourist to the state gives 35 jobs directly or indirectly.
“Here is a natural industry for Rajasthan that can fund the state government’s entire five year budget and take care of unemployment issues. But we have failed to take advantage of it,” Singh said and added that the government needs to be more pro-active to market the state.
Development professional Jaipal Singh Kaushik said the high unemployment figures are not surprising as during the pandemic all industries have been hit. For Rajasthan, major industries such as tourism and textiles have suffered heavy losses.
He said thousands of self-employed individuals such as dhobis, auto drivers, those who repair punctures and other such small operators have also suffered major setbacks and many have taken to selling vegetables or becoming daily wagers.
During the pandemic, around 15 lakh labourers returned to Rajasthan from other states. However, as the situation shows signs of normalising, labour migration has picked up.
Kaushik said the leadership has failed to capitalise on the state's natural advantages in industries such as tourism, textiles, agriculture and dairy. “There is scope for value addition in agriculture and dairy industry and puttig up food processing industries which has not been explored.”
He also rued the fact that successive governments have not been able to bring in ease of doing business and do away with cumbersome procedures of clearances for industry which has driven away investment to other states.
Santosh Poonia, programme manager at the NGO Aajeevika Bureau which works on labour issues, said the government’s efforts at promoting employment have not been very successful.
The government had launched an online portal and registered some 45 lakh workers who were to be paired up with industries for jobs. Skill programmes were also launched to upskill the workers but the programme has remained a non-starter.
“Most of the industries did not register as they would have to follow the labour laws providing all benefits to labour. The government managed to find jobs for only 5,000 of the 45 lakh labourers,” said Poonia.
He also says the cushioning provided by MGNREGS has also ceased and migration is higher now than it was earlier. During the pandemic, MGNREGS proved to be a life-saver with a record 55 lakh labourers enrolled under the scheme in the state.
“In the last 5-6 months, people had no work or income. They took loans to meet their needs and have piled up debts. So now entire families, men, women and children are migrating to other states in search of jobs,” said Poonia.