India Must Industrialize Rapidly To Create Jobs

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says India must not view industrialization negatively.

To cut dependence on the farm sector, India must step up industrialization, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on May 1, in a rebuff to critics who oppose such development. "There are severe limitations to expanding employment opportunities in agriculture on a large scale," Singh told a college campus audience. "A developing country like ours cannot afford to view industrialization as a negative phenomenon," Singh said.

His comments came amid increasingly violent demonstrations for greater economic and social rights with leftist rebels carrying out deadly attacks and villagers opposing setting up of industries in many parts of the country.

Reliable unemployment data is not regularly available, and does not include millions of under-employed people but economists say joblessness is a major problem. Agriculture -- which contributes less than 25% to total GDP -- employs nearly 60% of India's 1.1 billion population. Nearly 30% of people are employed in the services sector.

Singh also expressed concern over the uneven pace of industrialization in the country, where the economy is growing at more than 8%. "There are ... areas of concern, like displacement of people, like environmental damage, like alienation of the working class. These concerns must be dealt with," he said.

The Asian Development Bank warned last month that unemployment rates could hit growth rates in Asia by several percentage points. The bank estimated at least half a billion people out of a workforce of 1.7 billion in the region were unemployed or under-employed.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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