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Across the Aisle by P Chidambaram: There are jobs, discover them


A few days ago, a news item caught my attention. It was about the number of persons on the live register of the Employment Exchanges in Tamil Nadu: (see table)

These are depressing numbers. Notably, these are of Tamil Nadu, a reasonably developed state, not of Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. The true number of unemployed persons in UP or Bihar, more populous and less developed, if they were motivated to register themselves, would be mind boggling.

Unseen Jobs
Where are the jobs for the unemployed? They are hidden in plain sight. On March 31, 2021, there were 8,72,243 vacancies in the Central government and the government filled 78,264 vacancies. Nearly 8 lakh posts are vacant!

There are jobs everywhere, but we do not make the effort to discover them. Recently, I listened to a video recording of a talk by Dr Devi Shetty, the renowned cardio-thoracic surgeon who founded the Narayana Health chain of hospitals. Excerpts from Dr Shetty’s talk:

“We have a serious shortage of under-graduation seats and post-graduation seats.

“If we go to the Caribbean region, there are 35 medical colleges which are training doctors for the US, which are in a rented 50,000 square feet in a shopping mall, training fantastic doctors. Why are we spending Rs 400 crore (on a medical college)and creating this edifice? It is ridiculous.

“Medical colleges don’t require 140 faculty members to train 100 students. 140 faculty members can run a medical college with 1000 students. So, when the whole world has changed, we haven’t changed.

“We have made medical education as an elitist affair. …Today, children from poor families are not dreaming of becoming doctors. This will have tremendous consequences. Outstanding doctors across the world, with magic in their fingers, come from deprived background, because these are the kids with fire in the belly, to work for 24 hours, to change the rules of the game.

“Why every 12 minutes a pregnant lady should die during childbirth? Why 3,00,000 children die the day they are born? Why 1.2 million children die before they celebrate their first birthday? It is unacceptable.

“We need 2,00,000 gynecologists, we have less than 50,000; half of them don’t practise obstetrics… We need 2,00,000 anesthetist, we have less than 50,000.
“We need 2,00,000 pediatricians to take care of the kids, we have less than 50,000; we need at least 1,50,000 radiologists, we have less than 10,500.

“This country doesn’t require additional budgetary allocation, this country requires liberating medical, nursing and para medical education.”

Illiberal Governments
According to Dr Shetty, there are thousands of jobs that can, with a little effort, be created in the healthcare sector alone. Apply the same rigorous logic to other sectors like education, urban development, rivers and waterbodies, forestry, animal husbandry, agriculture research and extension and food processing: millions of jobs can be created which will, in turn, create direct and indirect employment for millions.

Further, governments are timid. They are afraid to create the jobs that are desperately needed in the government sector, because they have allowed themselves to be deceived by the illusion ‘small government is good government’. Governments are also knowledge-starved. As Dr Shetty pointed out, we are building monuments, not functional and self-sufficient medical colleges and, in the meanwhile, many women, children and afflicted die. His point on illiberalism, timid approach and misspending can be found in every department of government. What we need to create jobs is disruption, like the kind — ‘50,000 square feet shopping mall medical college’ — advocated by Dr Shetty.

Disrupters create jobs
Intrepid disrupters have been blamed for many things, but they ventured into the unknown, created something that was not there before, and in the process created wealth and invented jobs. Think of Gottlieb Daimler, Henry Ford, Kenjiro Takayanagi, Sam Walton, John Mitchell & Martin Cooper (Motorola), Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and their pathbreaking initiatives that have created millions of jobs — many of a kind that did not exist before.

India’s most important need is jobs. The sectors that I mentioned above have the potential to create millions of jobs like teachers, librarians, arts & crafts gurus, coaches, lab technicians, designers and architects, city planners, engineers, forest guards, fishers, veterinarians, milk producers, poultry farmers, etc. running into hundreds of categories. MSMEs, particularly small and medium units, are the most prolific job-creators and hirers. Once jobs are created, they will start their own virtuous cycles — related jobs, incomes, wealth, tax revenues, care for the environment, charity, support for the fine arts and literature, and so on.

But who is thinking of jobs? Not the Union Health Ministry, when just outside its offices sits a great opportunity that is waiting to be discovered. And not the Ministry of Finance that presented the Modi government’s Budget for 2022-23. The word ‘jobs’ occurred in three places in the 90-minute, 157-paragraph Budget speech!

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