Editorial – Tackle Unemployment

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One of the foremost problems before the Government of Manipur is the rising youth unemployment. From last count, the figure has crossed the seven lakh mark. This in a population of 24 lakhs is close to 30 percent. If not for the traditional social support systems, such as the joint family which takes under its umbrage siblings unfortunate to be with poor income or even no income, this figure would have spelled social disaster long ago. But the absorption power of even the most resilient social support system would naturally have a limit. Manipur’s may be nearing this limit or perhaps crossed it already. The never ending mindless violence on its streets may just be one indicator of this. This being the case, it is imperative for the government to come up with imaginative measures to address the problem when it comes out with its budget vision for the coming year. This obviously should not be about artificial creation of employment in the government, but of nudging the relevant sectors of the economy to foster self-sustaining economic enterprises with employment capabilities. Needless to elaborate as it is common knowledge, this would entail coming up with policies to expand the employment market beyond those directly employed by the government. As it is, the government’s employment market is supersaturated.
The other uncomfortable fact is, in the past decade, the government has been making unprecedented recruitment in the police department. These moves obviously would be with the concurrence of an obliging Central government in consideration of the raging insurgencies in the state. In a way this can result in a dangerous Pavlovian conditioning. At the unconscious level, or perhaps even at the conscious level, recruitment opportunities in a corrupt environment would ultimately come to be interpreted as a reward, causing a vested interest that would want insurgency kept simmering alive. But it is known this reward is much more complex. If a survey were to be done of the most lavish mansions in Imphal city, however garishly built these are, or properties acquired by Manipur domiciles in various metropolises in India, chances are, they would belong to a police officer or others with close links to them. The vicious cycle would thereby ensure the conditions for insurgency are never totally put to rest.

This vicious cycle would go conclusively only if employment channels have been generated the normal way. There would be few who would doubt this would have to be by invigorating the state’s fledgling private sector. The room for expansion of this sector at this moment is tremendous, and indeed a churning is already in progress and despite the tremendous hurdles they are faced with, it is amazing how so many small and micro enterprises keep spring up everywhere. Mobile repair shops, photo studio, refrigerator repair workshops, tyre retread centres and indeed, practically all services that an ordinary consumer needs in living a normal life in the state would be available in small unassuming box shops in some corner of the Imphal city. Given a little governmental support, these enterprises can become the answer to the state’s unemployment problem. This support can first of all be in the shape of providing tertiary services, regular electricity, water, good roads etc. It will also have to be about very importantly, easy credit facilities.

We do hope the government would evolve a policy to address this onerous issue. The matter will have to be pursued as per an official policy and blueprint, and not by any adhoc extension of assistance as if in a charity should be the resort. The latter style has never succeeded or sustained the energy necessary to carry on for long. There probably would be losses in the beginning in terms of loan defaults, business bankruptcy etc, but the government should factor in these drawbacks in its original policy blueprint and then envision its own breakeven point. This exercise cannot also be a purely monetary cost benefit exercise too. The government’s rewards, apart from recovering its direct investment which is important no doubt, is also to see the employment burden on its shoulders lighter, and ultimately disappear.

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