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India Faces Rising Unemployment Concerns as Elections Approach

In the run-up to India's general elections, the surging unemployment rate has become a focal point of contention between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and opposition parties. Rahul Gandhi, a prominent opposition leader, has criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the escalating joblessness, particularly among the youth, who represent 83% of the unemployed population according to the India Employment Report 2024.

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Economic Policies and Their Impact on Employment

Under Modi's administration, significant economic measures such as demonetization and changes to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime have been implemented, which, while intended to streamline the economy, have been blamed for exacerbating unemployment. The demonetization of 2016, aimed at curbing black money, was particularly controversial and is seen by many, including Arun Kumar, a respected economist, as a direct cause of prolonged joblessness, especially in the unorganized sector which employs 93% of the workforce.

Unemployment: A Central Issue in Upcoming Elections

The unemployment issue has resonated deeply with the electorate, with a recent survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies indicating that 32% of respondents view increasing unemployment as a decisive factor against re-electing the BJP. Despite this, 44% of those surveyed expressed willingness to give Modi's government another term, suggesting a complex voter landscape as the elections approach.

This rising unemployment and its political ramifications come at a time when India is attempting to shift from labor-intensive industries like textiles to more capital-intensive sectors such as e-commerce and digital technologies. However, this transition has not been smooth or sufficiently rapid to absorb the displaced workforce, leading to a significant mismatch in the labor market. The government's efforts to boost manufacturing through initiatives like the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes have yet to yield the expected employment growth.

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Long-term Implications and Government Responses

Looking forward, the challenge for whichever party comes to power will be to address these systemic issues effectively. The need for realignment in economic policies that not only focus on growth but also on the creation of employment opportunities is critical. As India continues to develop its digital and manufacturing capacities, the focus should also be on enhancing vocational training and reducing the stigma associated with such education pathways to better prepare the youth for the evolving job market.

In conclusion, unemployment in India is more than just an economic issue; it is a significant electoral and social concern that requires urgent and thoughtful policy attention. The outcome of the upcoming elections may well hinge on the perceived ability of the leaders to tackle this 'ticking bomb' effectively.

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