Ignoring Rs 70,000 crore debt, parties promising moon to electorate

Pratibha Chauhan

Shimla, October 22

Caught in the rigmarole of unemployment, scarce resource generation and mounting debt trap of over Rs 70,000 crore, the hill economy is in for troubled times, irrespective of who registers victory in the Vidhan Sabha elections.

Mindless of the grim financial situation, the main political players, the BJP, the Congress and AAP are all out to woo the electorate with tall promises which lack financial backing. It is amid this debate on the spiralling unemployment that the issue of restoration of the old pension scheme (OPS) has become the core issue, with employees agitating for this single-most important demand.

However, the restoration of the OPS, discontinued in May 2003, will be an uphill task for any government considering the additional Rs 700 crore annual budget required for it. Of the over 2.75 lakh employees, about 1.50 lakh fall under the New Pension Scheme (NPS).

Sensing the anti-BJP sentiment among the babus, the Congress is trying to ride back to power on the strength of the discontented employees, who have always played a crucial role in any party winning elections. Sensing the importance of the restoration of the OPS, this demand figures at number one in the list of 10 guarantees promised by the Congress. AAP has now played a gamble by announcing the OPS in Punjab in a bid to woo the Himachali voters.

Being a small hill state, which has done remarkably well in some human development indices like health, education and infrastructure building, Himachal has the highest employees to population ratio in the country. The salary component of over 2.50 lakh employees already constitutes 41 per cent of the total expenditure being made by the government, leaving little funds for development.

Unemployment is one of the most important election issues, which will sway the votes of the youth and impact the election outcome to a great extent.

Himachal with a figure of 8.77 lakh educated jobless youth (March 2022) has an unemployment rate of over 9 per cent, which is the fourth highest in the country after Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana.

The absence of the private sector and 90 per cent of the industry confined to the fringes in Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh and Kala Amb has denied the benefits reaching the hinterland and interior areas. With limited jobs in the government sector, joblessness is a major issue.

As both BJP and Congress engage in blame game over pushing the state under debts, the fact remains that the next government too will have to rely heavily on debts with little sources of revenue generation. Jobs can be generated only through rapid industrialisation and tourism promotion as the hydro power sector is no longer very lucrative due to high production cost.

Courtesy: Tribune News Service

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