The Narendra Modi government has admitted to a parliamentary panel that it has no real data on the number of new jobs created since 2014.
Over the last six months, the Centre has been engaged in a headlong confrontation with the estimates committee on GDP growth, which is led by veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi.
The BJP and some members of the parliamentary panel have disagreed on a range of issues including whether there is a lack of credible mechanisms by which employment is measured in India.
According to sources, Joshi is now set to table the report in the Lok Sabha. For the first time ever, it will come with three letters of dissent from three BJP members of the committee.
Evidently prompted by the government, some BJP members have argued the findings of the committee do not match the reality of actual job growth.
Over the last year, the prime minister and several senior ministers of his Cabinet have argued that an increasing number of Mudra loans and new registrations with the EPFO show that there has been healthy jobs growth.
The parliamentary committee however has strictly gone by traditionally accepted methods of employment data collection. This includes data put out by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). The government itself has admitted there is no NSSO data after 2011-12. NSSO surveys are conducted every five years and the latest round results have got delayed despite the government promising to release it by end 2018.
In the interim there have been all-India annual Labour Bureau surveys –the latest being 2016-17 — which the government has chosen not to release officially. It has in fact discontinued this survey too.
The last estimate put out by this survey was leaked to the media recently and shows that unemployment was at a four-year peak in 2016-17.
Since this survey has been officially not made public by the Modi government, the labour department has not shared it with the Parliamentary Committee. Panel chairman M.M Joshi therefore has concluded that there is no data on employment after the NSSO survey of 2011-12.
The Modi government in numerous written submissions from a host of top officials including the finance secretary, the chief statistician, banking secretary, labour secretary and the former RBI Governor Urjit Patel has admitted that it has no real-time jobs data and that the last such data was generated in 2011/12 (NSSO survey).
Three BJP MP’s on the panel – Rajiv Pratap Rudy (who has not attended any meeting), Nishikant Dube and Ramesh Bidhuri – last week submitted letters of dissent saying that the estimates committee was “exceeding its brief” and displaying “a total mismatch with the agenda” items.
This, sources say, may be the party and government’s way of trying to mitigate any possible damage from the report, which comes a few months before the 2019 general elections.
Reports of the estimates committee are normally adopted by consensus among all the members. However, in this case, a defiant Joshi has decided to add the three letters as an annexure to the report and place it before the Lok Sabha.
Joshi has repeatedly refused to accept the Modi government’s defence of using EPFO data as a proxy for real employment generation. The committee on measuring growth employment and income has repeatedly demanded that they get “holistic” and “real time survey data” based on conventional parameters to measure the “critical problem of unemployment”.