Elections are upon us and its hard to not get drawn into a discussion over one’s preferred prime ministerial candidate. Everybody is busy deciding and debating the pros and cons of the major parties manifestos and tearing down the ruling alliance UPA’s defenses. However, while economic development has emerged as the contentious issue that will decide NaMo and RaGa’s fortunes in the elections, there are also some underrated issues that have not made it to the spotlight, and need to be addressed immediately if we are to achieve the desired ideals of economic and social development.
The first issue that has lurked under the shadows has been that of the rising unemployment rate among the youth in the country. Government statistics indicate that the unemployment rate for graduates aged 19-24 years stands at 24% and 17% for females and males respectively. Although parties have repeatedly talked about the broader goal of economic development, none of the major political parties have come up with a concrete layout as to how they plan on countering this obstacle of jobless growth.
This issue sounds even graver when accounting for the fact that this section of the population is one of the largest in the country, accounting for nearly 350 million people and as is widely said, is the precious human resource of the country.
The second issue is that which everyone loves to brush under the carpet- that of environmental conservation. While the UPA has been ignorant of environmental concerns during its 10-year tenure, things don’t seem to be looking up on the environmental front, with environmentalists believing that Modi – with his penchant for ruthless economic development and authoritarian personality- is even less likely to think of the environment as an agenda. The evidence being provided is his recent declaration in Goa to re allow mining even though it has been stayed by the Supreme Court, the widespread repression of activists protesting against a proposed nuclear power station in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat as well as the state’s record of having 30% of India’s accident-prone hazardous industries and its most critically polluted areas.
Environment has emerged as a global issue not just because a failure to protect it is a loss to ecology, but also because it affects the socio-cultural fabric of the country. Failure to conserve the ecology of a place destroys the livelihood of the place and as we know all too well- with the Narmada Bachao Andalan an example in front of us- it affects the poor and the powerless more acutely.
The two issues stand diametrically opposite, with one focusing on generation of productive jobs for the youth, and the other focusing on a deliberate effort to reduce environmental ignorance. However, at the core of these two issues is the same objective- that of inclusive growth.