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Mainstream, VOL LX No 6, New Delhi, January 29, 2022

Letter to the readers, Mainstream, Jan 29, 2022

Friday 28 January 2022

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, January 29, 2022

At the time of the 2014 or the 2019 national elections, the Narendra Modi’s BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) promised the moon, millions of jobs, and welfarist measures which failed to appear on a required scale, but this has not evoked much adverse social reaction or protest in India. There have been scattered regional protests that have come up, on single issues and these are mostly blocked out in the national media. We hardly see in India the kind of street protests that have been observed in the recent past in Chile following the price rise in fares for urban transport or the food riots that broke out in South Africa last year. Last year we did see a spectacular protest movement by a section of the peasantry who stood up to protect their interests and had the government on a backfoot as a result of its unpopular Farm Laws. In the past few days, we have seen rare street protests by young unemployed job seekers who had given competitive exams for recruitment in the Indian Railways and who feel wronged due to changed procedures, etc. But the real meaning of these protests is all about the enormous penury of jobs in India — over 10 million candidates appeared exams for some thirty-five thousand railway vacancies. Every year hundreds of thousands queue up and apply for limited jobs in the police, paramilitary, army, or all branches of government. India’s employment statistics show a precarious picture when compared to much of the rest of the world. According to the private think tank the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) the number of people employed nationally has been on a decline –from 43 % in 2016 to 38% in 2021. This presents a socially explosive scenario. Despite the enormous rise of inequality, rising economic hardships, and large-scale job losses triggered by the pandemic over the past two years the government is mostly seen as moving towards cost-cutting and privatization. What is in store in the coming announcements on the National budget by the Central government, probably, more bad bank loans to corporates to be written off, more tax holidays for the rich, and new incentives in the form of stimulus for the private sector? Every development economist is asking for an expanded budget allocation for the rural employment guarantee programme (NREGA) and even an urban version of it. The government must move in this direction since it has no realistic alternative jobs creation plan in the works.

Tributes:

Elza Soares, one of the greatest Brazilian samba singers, died on January 20, 2022. Born in a deprived favela of Rio in 1930, Soares had a troubled childhood after being forced to marry by her father at the age of 12. Despite all odds, she rose to become one of Brazil’s most successful singers. She married the famous footballer Mané Garrinchas in 1962. During Brazil’s 1964-1985 dictatorship the couple was forced to live in exile in Italy.

Dominique Lalanne a former scientist, who dedicated over three decades to the fight against the French nuclear arsenal passed away from a stroke on January 23, 2022.

Charanjit Singh, the legendary Indian Hockey Player died on January 27. He had been captain of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics gold-winning hockey team from India.

We pay tributes to all of the above people

Jan 29, 2022 – HK

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