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Ahead of polls, Gujarat govt makes jobs top priority

LiveMint logoLiveMint 26-02-2017 Maulik Pathak

Ahmedabad: Shaken by several youth uprisings in the past two years, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat appears to be pushing job creation up its list of priorities ahead of the assembly elections due by December.

“If one were to carefully examine the Patidar protests, Dalit protests or even protests by some members of OBC community, a growing perception of joblessness seems to lie at their root. This is what the state is trying to address,” said a government official on conditions of anonymity.

Apart from recruitment drives in government departments, the state is also working towards creating opportunities in the private sector.

While the state budget that was unveiled on 21 February had provisions for creating job opportunities and development of soft skills training, the government has also held ‘mega job fairs’ in various districts where over 100,000 candidates have been offered jobs in the private sector, including multinational companies, according to J.N. Singh, chief secretary, Gujarat government.

“And the state government plans to hold such job fairs every quarter,” Singh added.

To pass on job opportunities in the wake of investments that flowed through the ‘Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit’, these ‘mega job fairs’ were organized in 12 clusters between 11 and 17 February, he said, adding that as many as 2,184 job providers participated in them and offered jobs to 109,520 out of 142,970 applicants.

Top recruiters include Larsen and Turbo Ltd, Ford India Ltd, Suzuki Motors Gujarat Pvt. Ltd, Honda Motors, Tata Motors Ltd, Vodafone, Pepsico, Adani Power, Essar Power, Reliance Industries and Arvind Mills, according to Singh.

The Patel agitation, led by 23-year-old Hardik Patel, has been demanding job quotas for Patels under the other backward classes, or OBC, quota. Lack of education facilities and joblessness among the Patel youth have been the two major reasons for their demand that was put forward to the government by the Patidar leader on various occasions. The state had earlier proposed a 10% quota under the economically backward classes (EBC) category, but this proposal was struck down by the Gujarat high court as being unconstitutional. The matter is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

Equally, Dalits have been up in arms after atrocities against Dalit youths by upper castes over issues such as the skinning of a dead cow. Activist Jignesh Mevani who has been the face of the Dalit protest in Gujarat, has said that lack of job opportunities and land rights have blocked the upward mobility of Dalits in Gujarat.

In his budget speech, deputy chief minister Nitin Patel who also holds the finance portfolio set aside Rs866 crore towards organizing 100 recruitment camps aimed at benefitting about 300,000 youths. Part of the money would also be spent on providing facilities for about 200,000 trainees of ITIs.

Ahead of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in January, OBC leader Alpesh Thakor led a protest March against growing unemployment in the state. He claimed that there are as many as 60 lakh unemployed youths in Gujarat.

Together the Patels, OBC and Dalits make up more than 40% of the state’s population whose votes will be crucial for the BJP to win in a state where it has been in power for over two decades now. Another youth leader Pravin Ram, who has been fighting for employment related issues in Gujarat for over three years. His call to boycott the Vibrant Gujarat Summit won the support of other youth leaders—including Mevani, Thakor and Patel—but he withdrew his protest after being assured by CM Rupani of a close look at jobs-related issues.

The government has started a mass recruitment drive to hire as many as 67,000 people in various government departments by March-end. “We have also simplified the hiring process to ensure that people can quickly take up government jobs,” said a senior government official on conditions of anonymity.

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