Centre’s digital push for UP to counter youth unemployment criticism

With the Yogi Adityanath-led government in Uttar Pradesh coming under criticism regarding the rising youth unemployment rate, the Central government has kicked off a massive digital push involving multiple centres of excellence, technology parks and entrepreneurship centres in the election-bound state.

In December, the ministry of electronics and IT launched seven Internet exchanges across Uttar Pradesh, a centre of entrepreneurship in Lucknow and a centre of excellence in Meerut. Units registered with UP-based Software Technology Park of India (STPI) contributed Rs 22,671 crore to IT exports during the last fiscal.

The focus on digitisation and start-ups has become one of the highlights of the election campaign and political discourse ahead of the elections, which is due to be held in three months.

Last week, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath launched a drive to distribute free tablets and smart phones to one crore undergraduate and postgraduate students, in a bid to link the youth with the government’s flagship Digital India campaign.

In December, Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar inaugurated Internet exchanges in Prayagraj, Gorakhpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Meerut, Kanpur and Agra, as well as UIDAI-Aadhaar seva kendras in Gonda, Varanasi, Moradabad and Saharanpur, besides the centre of entrepreneurship in Lucknow and centre of excellence in Meerut.

MedTech CoE, the centre of entrepreneurship at Lucknow, is expected to “be a huge catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship and start-ups in medical and health technologies to position Uttar Pradesh as one of the country’s important R&D and manufacturing hubs for medical electronics products and solutions. It shall be a big hub for the MedTech start-up ecosystem in UP leading to generation of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth in UP,” said an official note on the project.

Besides these projects, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also pushing for the BharatNet project — the Rs 29,500-crore project to connect every village by broadband in 16 states — which is expected to be completed in the coming months. Uttar Pradesh will be a major beneficiary of the project, sources said.

Uttar Pradesh is in the running to be the state that could benefit the most from the recently announced Rs 76,000-crore scheme for the production of semiconductors and display boards, officials in the government said. The programme aims to provide support to companies and consortia that are engaged in the production of silicon semiconductor, displays, compound semiconductors, and other related products.

The state is already among one of the biggest beneficiaries of the production-linked incentive (PLI) schemes for mobile and electronics manufacturing, computer hardware, all-in-one personal computers, servers and other related equipment.

In June last year, electronics manufacturing giant Samsung had completed the construction of a display manufacturing unit that it had shifted from China to Noida. The state and more specifically the industrial units in and around Noida, have seen renewed interest from companies, including small domestic companies, for setting up electronics manufacturing units.

“The Government of India has embarked on a massive push post-Covid on expanding digital skilling on one hand, and digital opportunities on the other, and on creating digital infrastructure in the country. Under the digital skilling programme and the new education policy, we are making it possible for the youth to avail digital technology courses in a wide range of area. At the same time, we are creating a network of centres of technology, entrepreneurship and start-ups under STPI; and incentivising technology firms to set up development centres in smaller towns across the country,” Chandrasekhar said.

The minister said that unlike in the past, when talk of digitisation and start-ups would always get linked with cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad or Mumbai, the government now wants to take it to states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in order to create better prospects for the youth there. “It is one of our policy priorities to make sure that technology and digital opportunities are also available in small towns by encouraging firms to set up operations,” Chandrasekhar told The Indian Express.

According to BJP sources, the Prime Minister is keen to see that the Digital India campaign is part of the election discourse in Uttar Pradesh. “Its in a new avatar now. Uttar Pradesh is part of this narrative now. The Prime Minister himself is referring to Startup India, Digital India and software parks in his speeches,” the source added.

BJP strategists say the thrust given on this could help the party to “give hopes to the youth” and counter the criticism over the rising rate of unemployment among them.

According to the quarterly Periodic Labour Force Survey, the unemployment rate for the age group of 15-29 was 23.2 per cent in Uttar Pradesh during January-March 2021, higher than the national average of 22.9 per cent during the same period.

Amid disillusionment among the youth over unemployment in the state, the Aam Aadmi Party, which is trying to make a mark in upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh, recently promised to provide 10 lakh jobs annually and a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000 to the unemployed if voted to power.

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