In the aftermath of the UPA’s electoral drubbing in the recent assembly elections, the debate about welfare economics has intensified. In an interview with Outlook, Union rural development minister Jairam Ramesh argues that such schemes are essential to sustain growth and vice versa.
Why have welfare measures failed to work for the UPA in Rajasthan and Delhi? Or have such doles worked against it?
Absolutely not. These are all bogus analysis. We do welfare because it’s needed, not to win or lose elections.
But why are they not resulting in support for the government? Is it because of poor implementation?
We have to get the political messaging right. We have to get the political outreach right. People should begin to see benefits from these programmes. People vote for a variety of reasons. They don’t vote on the basis of one programme or the other.
But why are the people not seeing the benefits despite most UPA-initiated schemes having been in implementation for four to five years?
In Rajasthan, most of the programmes came up only last year. For instance, the free medicines programme as such did not have adequate time to show results. People recognise programmes like NREGA for what they are worth.
Higher growth in India has not translated into more development or better-paying jobs for a majority of working people.
We have had rapid economic growth but we have not had commensurate employment growth. Our manufacturing sector hasn’t been able to absorb surplus labour; it’s the services sector that has done so. So we have to get the manufacturing sector on track.
So instead of welfare schemes, is there need for more skill development and employment generation?
Without welfare, you can’t sustain growth, and without growth, you cannot sustain welfare. I see this as walking on two legs—there’s the welfare leg and there’s the growth leg.