Series on Indian Economics by Sirisha Naidu: 2. Why Not Pakodas? (Part I: GDP and Employment)

Sirisha Naidu (Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Wright State University)

Cartoons – Rebel Politik (

এই লেখাটি বাংলায় পড়ার জন্য এখানে ক্লিক করুন

This is the second of a series of short articles on Economics with an intention to demystify various basic terms and concepts related to Economics that we encounter everyday in news papers and other media forums as well as our conversations. And yet, these terms and concepts may not have been entirely clear to some of us. This, on a macro level, allows a leeway to governments and the corporate sector to mislead us into believing wrong information regarding development and our own socio-economic welfare.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi rode to power promising 2 crores jobs per year to unemployed youths during his election campaign. Recently his comment that selling Pakodas can be a viable employment opportunity for jobless youths created a lot of controversy. Earlier, similar statement was made by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee about the bright prospect of Telebhaja Shilpo, and most recently, the newly elected BJP CM of Tripura urged youths to set up Paan shops instead of wasting their time waiting for government jobs.

The current article takes the essence of these comments as a starting point and inquires, given the nature of India’s economic growth and development, whether, such self-employment ventures are the only possible economic activities left for millions of aspiring job seekers.

Dear reader, we will be happy to receive your feedback against this series.

Read the previous article “The Travails Of Economic Growth” here.

On Jan 19, 2018, in an interview with Zee News, PM Modi noted the following, “If someone opens a pakoda shop in front of your office, does that not count as employment? The person’s daily earning of Rs 200 will never come into any books or accounts. The truth is massive people are being employed”. This statement led to a furious back-and-forth of articles and memes supporting, ridiculing and criticizing Modi. But there is much to unpack in that statement of his. Do pakodas and street food not count as employment? Is pakoda selling not desirable and why?GDP, as an economic indicator, is expected to indicate the health of the economy and ostensibly the wellbeing of people in the economy, as we discussed in a previous article. The questions relevant for our common woman, Miriam, who has completed a college degree, are the following. Will she be employed as a result of higher GDP or economic growth? Is selling pakodas the only job available to her? Will this job result in a high standard of living for her and her family? In other words, we need to investigate two assumptions underlying the GDP fetish which we can pose as questions. First, does GDP growth always result in higher employment? And second, does employment always translate to a higher standard of living? This article addresses the first question and the next article will address the second question.

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