Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Does The Modi Government Plan To Hand Out Dole To The Youth After Parliament Security Breach ?

Political whispers in Delhi seem to indicate that the Centre is eyeing a scheme of monetary assistance to unemployed youth, which has been highlighted by the opposition as a major failure of this regim
December 20, 2023
Parliament
Picture: Twitter

Delhi has been rife with rumours of a likely announcement of dole from government coffers for millions of unemployed youth. This could well make the current dispensation led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi romp home in the 2024 general election. But the buzz in the corridors of power is that the massive security breach in the new Parliament building on December 13 by two unemployed men has resulted in the idea being put on hold for the time being, at least.

Behind the surmises about assistance for the unemployed was the fact that a couple of months before the last Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the Modi government launched a scheme to provide ₹6,000 per annum to farmers under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi. The scheme continues and ₹2,000 is directly credited to the bank accounts of millions of farmers across the country every four months.

Moreover, the prime minister recently asserted that there were just four castes in India—the poor, women, youth and kisan (farmers).

The last segment has already been provided monetary support, there are charitable schemes for women like Ladli Bahna (‘Lovely Sister’) in BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, and the poor are being given five kilogrammes of rations monthly under the Centre’s scheme. So, the only category left out is the youth.

During the campaign for the recent assembly polls in five states, Modi repeated his assurance to the nation that nobody would go to sleep hungry. He countered the Congress offer of a spate of guarantees such as free bus rides for women by saying that “those who don’t have any guarantee to be in politics are offering guarantees”. So much so that he often ended up using the phrase “Modi ki guarantee” during the campaign. It was reduced to being a case of guarantee versus guarantee until the BJP won three of the five states that went to the polls in November.

A week after the poll results were declared Modi addressed a workshop of educators and academic leaders virtually. It was organised under the theme of Viksit Bharat 2047 by governors at Raj Bhavans in state capitals.

Addressing the gathering, Modi remarked, “Today, the world’s population is rapidly ageing, and Bharat is empowered by its youth. Experts suggest that in the coming 25 to 30 years, Bharat will lead in terms of the working-age population. Therefore, the eyes of the entire world are on the youth of Bharat. Youth is not only the agent of change but also the beneficiary of change. The young colleagues in colleges and universities today are the ones who will shape their careers in these crucial 25 years (or until 2047). These youth will be building new families, creating a new society. Thus, determining the kind of ‘Viksit Bharat’ (developed India) we want is a right that belongs to our youth most of all. With this spirit, the government aims to connect every youth with the action plan for a ‘Viksit Bharat’. It wants to incorporate the voice of the country’s youth into the policy framework for the ‘Viksit Bharat’. Since you are in close contact with the youth, the contribution of all of you is highly significant in this regard.”

Earlier this month, the University Grants Commission (UGC) wrote to the vice-chancellors of all the Centrally funded universities, asking them to set up selfie points equipped with specially designed portraits of Modi at vantage points to serve as a backdrop for selfie-loving youth of the institutions.

Add to this the fact that in July the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports uploaded the draft of the National Youth Policy (NYP) 2023 to elicit public response to what it called a roadmap for uplifting the lot of the country’s youth. The policy is meant to be followed for the next 10 years. Among other things, it aims at mainstreaming youth who have not attended any institution or availed of any institutional benefit.

The NYP says: “…the policy recognises that there are large numbers of youth who need better access to social infrastructure like better quality of education, healthcare, livelihood and skills. An NSSO (National Sample Survey Organisation) survey of 2020-21 showed that the youth who are neither in education, employment or training (NEET) are roughly 32.9% of the youth population. The Youth Policy aims to reduce this proportion of youth.”

The NYP 2023 puts India’s youth population in the 15 to 29 age group at about 37.14 crore. This is based on their share in the projected figures of 2021 for overall population. This is about 27.3% of the total population. But about one-third or 12.21 crore of this comes under NEET whose mainstreaming remains a huge task.

It is this section of youth that the government has found to be most deserving and the way the data has been presented regarding them in the NYP draft shows that the government may well move to provide a helping hand to them in some form.

For them as well as their better-off counterparts, the policy proposes to have a District Youth Information Centre in every district headquarters to coordinate the efforts of the Department of Youth Affairs to implement the youth policy.

But since charity often begins during elections, guarantees have been triumphing over policy; and it is against this backdrop that the attack on Parliament has taken place. This has also revived the memory of a far more deadly terror strike on the legislature that took place on the same day — December 13 — in 2001.

Though this time nobody was hurt it is a fact that once again there has been a security breach with the intent of vandalizing Parliament while it was in session.

Modi, in an interview to a Hindi newspaper published on December 17, called the Parliament security breach “very serious” and sought “investigation to know the elements behind it”. However, neither Modi nor home minister, Amit Shah, have yet issued any statement in the Parliament, as demanded by the opposition MPs. As of December 19, more than 140 opposition MPs were suspended by the speaker of Lok Sabha and Chairman of Rajya Sabha for demanding a debate on the floors of the two houses. The opposition accused the government of disrespecting the Parliament.

The furore caused by the incident has, among other things, put the hazards of rampant joblessness the youth are grappling with back into focus. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was the first to publicly articulate this. Three days after the attack, he said, “The biggest issue in the country is that of unemployment, which is boiling all over the country. The country’s youth are not getting employment due to the policies of Modi ji.”

The BJP was up in arms against Rahul Gandhi. The ruling party puts the current unemployment rate at a low of 3.2% against the Opposition’s estimate of 8.5% or so. The BJP also accused the Congress of having links with some of the intruders who were able to cross the high-security zone of Parliament before two of them jumped into the Well of the House from the visitors’ gallery.

The Congress has been pointing out that the trespassers were issued visitor passes by a BJP MP from Karnataka. The fracas ended within hours and the House resumed sitting but the incident threw up the issue of rampant unemployment and the consequent unrest among the youth.

The Congress has finally called it out even as the BJP appears to be busy testing the waters. In any case, the issue of jobs has been further highlighted by what has happened thus far. So much so that it cannot be ignored any longer as countrywide Lok Sabha polls are to be held in a few months and the youth will have considerable say in the polls with the demographic strength they have, and which the prime minister acknowledged in his Viksit Bharat speech on December 11.

In the past, the Congress had toyed with the idea of introducing a universal basic income scheme called Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), on the lines of what happens in some Scandinavian countries to assist unemployed youngsters.

This provides, as a matter of right, an assured monthly sum from the state exchequer to non-earning members of society. The Congress move of ensuring an income of ₹6,000 a month or ₹72,000 a year under NYAY could not take off as it lost the last Lok Sabha polls in 2019; a little before the polls the BJP government introduced ₹6,000 yearly assistance to farmers.

This time too, a similar scheme is thought to be on the cards for the unemployed. According to political circles, this may well be the case even after the Parliament security breach, especially because of the impending electoral tussle.

Abid Shah

He is a senior journalist, who has worked with the Statesman for many decades and reported on politics, social development, agriculture and political movements.