We are witnessing a different presidency under the venerable A P J Abdul Kalam. Instead of speaking about the state of the nation in his customary pre-Republic Day speech, he chose to speak about one malaise, which the nation needs to focus on - creating new jobs to absorb the vast, and growing, army of the unemployed.
The president has met and, more important, interacted with thousands of children and has found their over riding concern to be their prospects of getting jobs. The question most often asked by children being, "Mr. President, will I get a good job and be able to contribute to India, to make it a developed nation?" This represents the aspirations and anxiety of nearly 540 million budding citizens of a nation that feels ready to play a meaningful role in the world beyond.
The president pointed out that when the world was moving from the industrial to the information and knowledge era, there was a changing pattern in the sectoral share of GDP and the number of people employed in each sector. The contribution of agriculture to India's GDP, he highlighted, has come down from 39 per cent to 22 per cent during the period 1979 to 2004. During the same period the contribution of the manufacturing sector crawled up from 24 per cent to 27 per cent and whereas the contribution of the services sector has increased from 37 per cent to 51 per cent
Not surprisingly, the percentage of people employed in agriculture has come down from 64 per cent to 54 per cent. Simultaneously, the percentage of people employed in manufacturing has gone up from 15 per cent to 19 per cent and in the service sector from 20 per cent to 27 per cent.
By 2020 our employment pattern should aim at 44 per cent in agriculture, 21 per cent in manufacturing and 35 per cent in service sectors, said Kalam and observed that the displacement of 10 per cent people from the agriculture sector must be facilitated by enabling them to develop their skills so that they can undertake value-added tasks in rural enterprises and curb migration to urban areas in search of jobs.
Moreover, this will also help bring a semblance of development in the remote rural hinterlands. Instead of people from rural areas being displaced by poverty to migrate to urban centres in search of manufacturing and services sector jobs, PURA (providing urban amenities in rural areas) will facilitate creation of employment in rural areas. The most important sectors for sustainable national development are agriculture, education, healthcare, water and energy. The common thread that runs across these are the essentials of PURA, he pointed out. President Kalam pointed out in some detail the schemes that can generate large-scale employment. Those highlighted in the R-Day address were: Bio-Fuel Generation The country has nearly 63 million hectares of wasteland, out of which 33 million hectares have been allotted to tree plantation. Certain multi-purpose bio-fuel plants can grow well in wastelands with absolutely minimal human inputs. Once cultivated, these trees begin yielding fruit crops in two years for the next fifty years.
Cultivating bio-fuel plants in cultivable parts of wastelands are a low-cost option to rural poverty and unemployment. For example, 11 million hectares can yield a revenue of approximately Rs20,000 crore a year and provide employment to over 12 million people both for plantation and running of extraction plants.
Waste Land Development ICRISAT, with its international experience of working in arid regions, has developed short duration, disease and drought resistant varieties of important crops beneficial to our farmers. They have introduced various tillage practices and nutrition management techniques, to boost crop yields even under drought stress.
This technology will help reclaim five more million hectares of the 33 million hectares of wasteland allotted for productive farming. According to experts, this will result in the deployment of 15 million people for dry land cultivation.
Water Harvesting and Recycling Water harvesting should become mandatory for all. To improve the water table, we need to build check dams, develop water sheds, desilt ponds and rivers, clear the inlets and outlets to ponds and water bodies and recharge wells. If our rural areas are made to have operational water bodies, recharging of wells will take place. The task is totally labour intensive and nation wide implementation of this scheme will provide employment for six million persons for more than three or four years.
Bamboo Mission This mission envisages an integrated programme of expansion of plantations of species of the bamboo plant, the scientific management and promotion of community level value addition and entrepreneurship. This will enable presenting raw material for industries and the industry to access and apply modern technology for producing globally competitive, new generation bamboo products.
Converting 'fly ash' as a wealth generator The use of coal for power generation results in an increased quantum of fly ash production, which has reached about 100 million tonnes per year. All out efforts are needed to utilise this fly ash not only from environmental considerations, but also to avoid land usage for fly ash dumping. Fly ash can become a wealth generator by making use of it for producing 'green building' materials, roads, agriculture etc. Full utilisation of the generating stock, will provide employment potential for three hundred thousand people and result in a business volume of over Rs4,000 crore.
Textile Industry India is the third largest producer of cotton in the world. However, compared to the world average of 700kg of seed cotton per acre we produce only 350kg.
Cotton production is linked to the garment export business, which is a low investment and large volume employment generator. India is presently exporting $6 billion worth of garments, whereas with the freeing of quota restrictions under the WTO regime in place, we can increase the production and export of garments to $18 to 20 billion within the next five years.
This will enable generation of employment in general and in rural areas in particular. By tripling the export of apparels, we can add more than 5 million direct jobs and 7 million indirect jobs in the allied sector, primarily in the cultivation of cotton
Healthcare Another area, which is an employment generator, is the healthcare industry. Statistically, we have only one doctor for every 1,800 people whereas in some of the developed countries the doctor to population ratio is 1: 600. For providing quality healthcare to all of our citizens, we would need at least doubling the strength of doctors and paramedical staff in the whole country.
Village Knowledge Centres With the kind of awareness and opportunities available in information and communication technology, it will soon become a reality wherein every one of our villages will have computers and connectivity available. These would be the windows to the world of knowledge for our villages and also to reap the benefits of our e-governance, tele-education, tele-medicine, e-commerce and e-judiciary initiatives. In spite of the all-pervasive nature of computers they would still be far away from being a truly friendly access device for our villagers.
We would need in such cases, a human intermediary who would act as the village information officer. He will be the extended eyes and ears of the villager to the world of knowledge. India has approximately 2.3 lakh village panchayats. With the establishment of village knowledge centres in these panchayats to empower villagers with knowledge and to act as nodal centre for knowledge connectivity for villagers.
The schemes discussed have the potential to generate approximately a total of 56 million direct employment during the next 5 years. This does not include other employment avenues in the government and the private sector, which has the capability of totally creating 76 million jobs in the next five years if only each of the above schemes are taken up in mission mode.