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What's doable in Congress' jobs manifesto?

Congress is possibly making the same mistake BJP did in 2014

twitter-logo Goutam Das        Last Updated: April 2, 2019  | 16:33 IST
What's doable in Congress' jobs manifesto?
Congress President Rahul Gandhi released party's manifesto eight days ahead of Lok Sabha polls 2019

The Indian National Congress made the right noises on jobs in its election manifesto although some of it appears theoretical, flaky, and outright difficult to press ahead. The manifesto can be divided into what's doable, what's vague, and what is a good promise but tough to execute.  

Here are the doable parts on jobs:

The manifesto states that "in order to underline the link between the growth of industry and the service sectors and the rapid creation of jobs, Congress will create a new Ministry of Industry, Services and Employment". The party also promises to fill up all the four lakh vacancies as on 1st April 2019 in the Central Government, Central Public Sector Enterprises, Judiciary and Parliament before the end of March 2020. This is a tall promise -don't buy into the timeline of a few months but this is doable in a few years.

Also Read: Lok Sabha Elections 2019 LIVE updates: Rahul Gandhi releases Congress manifesto; NYAY, simpler GST, jobs get prime focus

The party also pledges to take healthcare jobs seriously. It is a promising sector given the underwhelming infrastructure India currently has. A FICCI report points out that healthcare employed 1.2 million people in the organised sector as of 2017. But here are the needs of tomorrow: 1.54 million additional doctors and 2.4 million nurses are required by 2025 to meet the growing demand for healthcare. Three million additional beds are needed by 2025.

Congress pledges it would "create lakhs of new jobs for qualified teachers, doctors, nurses, paramedics, technicians, instructors and administrators through a massive expansion of the education and health sectors". Interestingly, the party promises a living wage to healthcare workers, not just minimum pay. "Para-state workers like Anganwadi workers, ASHA workers, rozgarsahayaks, preraks, anudeshaks and other such groups form the backbone of the public service delivery system. We will increase funding for the relevant programmes and work with state governments to ensure that they are paid more than minimum wage and all arrears are paid immediately. In addition, we will expand the ASHA programme and appoint a second ASHA worker in all villages with a population exceeding 2500 persons," the manifesto says.

Also workable are two promises on rewarding businesses that create new jobs by lowering their effective direct tax rates and lowering contributions to the CSR fund. The party promises to pursue a new breed of 'green jobs' also proposed by the economists at Azim Premji University a few days ago. Two programmes here include restoration of water bodies and regeneration of wasteland and degraded land.

The Manifesto next promises to promote "mass entrepreneurship and support entrepreneurs to replicate tried and tested models of businesses in order to meet the growing demand for such goods and services". This is a good idea. Nano entrepreneurship rides on skills and future governments could leverage and build on the work the NDA Government already did with Skills India. Copy-pasting tested models is becoming easier because some non governmental bodies, such as deAsra Foundation, are working on them - tailoring businesses, beauty parlours, food and beverage outlets etc.    

The vague part to the manifesto is this: "We will create an Enterprise Support Agency to help entrepreneurs, including start-ups, with all-round business support, including counselling, incubation; access to technology, funding, domestic and export markets; and the creation of new products, services and intellectual property". Start-ups do most of these very well on their own, without much government support. Perhaps, the only part where future governments need to play a bigger role is enabling access to government contracts. 

Now, the seemingly difficult parts:

Congress is possibly making the same mistake BJP did in 2014 by promising that it would increase the share of India's manufacturing sector from 16 per cent of GDP to 25 per cent in five years. Even if it succeeds in pushing up the GDP contribution, it wouldn't create many jobs - newer factories are investing heavily into automation, which reduces the need for blue-collar workers. Getting manufacturing going is complicated with India's archaic labour laws, and land acquisition issues weighing heavy. Further, land and labour are state subjects too and are beyond the centre's direct influence.

The manifesto also promises to "trigger rapid growth of the manufacturing sector, particularly of MSMEs, through the provision of world-class infrastructure in industrial hubs and cluster towns in order to aid the expansion of current units and the creation of new units". India has a 'missing middle' problem - the small firms find it difficult to grow bigger and create quality jobs because of both economic and non-economic factors such as trust. Family-owned businesses don't delegate work because they don't trust 'outsiders'.  The non-economic factors are more cultural and thereby, difficult to change in five years.

Also Read: Congress manifesto: Rahul Gandhi lists key issues, says 'Won't promise Rs 15 lakh'

Read the full story here: Congress fields Krishna Poonia against Rajyavardhan Rathore from Jaipur Rural

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