What the FAQ: Is there really no unemployment in India? This is what the data says

These are just the available figures and often there are countless lives lost that don't make it to the data sets either because they go unreported or due to bureaucratic lapses
Pic: Edexlive
Pic: Edexlive

Within two months of this year, there were large scale protests by unemployed youth in parts of the country. But just a day ago, a BJP MP from Karnataka, Tejasvi Surya, took a political jibe at the opposition in Lok Sabha and went on to claim that there is no unemployment in the country and “only unemployed person is the prince of Congress party”. On the other hand, in the Rajya Sabha, the government revealed grim figures on unemployment that speak of suffering endured by thousands of families. 

What are these numbers?
The numbers are deaths. More than 25,000 Indians (23 per day) died by suicide due to unemployment or indebtedness between 2018 and 2020, data presented by the Minister of State (Home) Nityanand Rai in a written reply in Rajya Sabha highlighted. The Minister was referring to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. 

If we look at only the unemployment deaths, news reports suggested that the total number of suicides among the unemployed during the BJP-led government at the Centre (2014-2020) was 18,772, an average of 2,681 deaths per year.

Is this because of COVID?
While there is an increase in the number of deaths in the pandemic year, the situation cannot be attributed only to the devastation caused by COVID and the lockdowns that followed. For instance, if we look at the pre-COVID years, the data states that 2,851 people died by suicide in 2019 citing unemployment as the reason and in 2018 this number was 2,741.

The number of people who were forced to die due to heavy debt burden in 2019 and 2018 was 5,908 and 4,970 respectively. For 2020, NCRB data shows that 3,548 died by suicide citing unemployment as the reason and 5,213 people cited debt burden as the reason for the extreme step.

What is the state-wise data?
According to the NCRB data, the highest number of deaths by suicide among the unemployed in 2020 was reported from Karnataka (720), followed by Maharashtra (625), Tamil Nadu (336), Assam (234), and Uttar Pradesh (227).

In suicides due to bankruptcy or indebtedness, Maharashtra — which reports the highest number of farmer suicides each year — topped the list in 2020 with 1,341 deaths, followed by Karnataka (1,025), Telangana (947), Andhra Pradesh (782) and Tamil Nadu (524). Barring Tamil Nadu, the other states usually account for the most farmer suicides.

These numbers seem disproportionate to the Indian population?
What is important to remember here is that these are just the available figures and often there are countless lives lost that don't make it to the data sets either because they go unreported or due to bureaucratic lapses. The pandemic years have caused grave trauma to millions of daily wage labourers, the unemployed youth, and many who were at the mercy of money lenders. We may never know the real figures that highlight their plight.

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