New Delhi, The Congress on Saturday hit out at the Narendra Modi government with former prime minister Manmohan Singh saying the economic recovery was fragile and job creation inadequate while party vice chief Rahul Gandhi said the real meaning of growth and progress need to be understood.
The top Congress leaders’ remarks came a day after Prime Minister Modi spoke of India moving at the fastest pace among bigger economies and about changes brought about in the last 18 months of his government.
Addressing the 31st plenary session of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) here, Manmohan Singh said there was dissatisfaction among workers over “anti-labour and unimaginative economic policies of the NDA government”.
He accused the government of making efforts to reduce the scope for secure industrial jobs in favour of contract labour and hire and fire approach.
“The trade union movement has to be aware that at present Indian economy faces a fragile recovery and inadequate expansion of employment opportunities. Public enterprises face an uncertain future,” he said, adding employment-oriented programmes such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act face reduced allocations.
“It is generally agreed that we need at least 500 million skilled workers by 2022. The actual pace on the ground is only a fraction of this target,” he said.
Manmohan Singh said industrial strife, strikes and lockouts were not the best means to resolve unrest, and called for enlarging the available space for resolving industrial problems through “peaceful dialogue involving all the stake holders of the tripartite process – namely workers, industry and government”.
He said trade union movement is an integral part of social democracy and every encouragement ought to be provided to promote collective bargaining to secure for labour a just and fair share of development’s benefits.
Noting that removing poverty was a major task and requires a high economic growth rate and rapid increase in employment opportunities, he said there was broad consensus that the economy grows about eight percent annually and there are productive new job opportunities for 10-12 million people every year.
He said the trade union movement can play a very important role in ensuring that the growth process is both inclusive as well as environmentally sustainable and INTUC’s agenda of job creation, respect for labour standards and rights at work responds well to these imperatives.
“This visionary agenda rightly focuses on providing productive job opportunities to young workers, ensure zero gender discrimination, and expanding the frontiers of social security focusing on health, education and housing and guarantee of freedom of association and collective bargaining,” he said.
He called on INTUC to cover more workers in the unorganised sectors such as agriculture and construction and pay particular attention to needs of women workers. INTUC, which came into existence in 1947, must also play a more important role in programmes relating to workers education and skill development, he added.
In his speech, Gandhi sought to know who was benefiting.
“Who is benefiting from growth. Are 20-25 people turning billionaires> Is it that a few are roaming in their private jets while labourers are finding it difficult to purchase even bus tickets. Are labourers living in jhuggis and dying by consuming dirty water?” he asked.