With 10 lakh jobs promise, BJP seeks to blunt Opposition’s ‘unemployment’ weapon

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday directed recruitment of 10 lakh jobs in various departments and ministries in the next 18 months, a deadline which will end barely four months before the next general elections in 2024, highlighting the ruling BJP’s imperative to neutralise the opposition’s criticism on the issue of unemployment ahead of its re-election bid.

The government also unveiled a radical ‘Agnipath’ scheme, a short-term employment for youngsters as soldiers in the armed forces, under which over 46,000 people are likely to be inducted in the first go. Union minister Anurag Thakur said this will be part of the overall 10 lakh new jobs.

While BJP leaders lauded the job measures as “revolutionary” which will infuse youngsters with “new hope and confidence”, opposition parties slammed the announcement as “jumle-baazi” (peddling rhetoric), with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the youth was “deceived” eight years ago by the ruling party’s promise of two crore jobs every year. It is now the turn of 10 lakh government jobs, he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office made the recruitment decision public with a tweet, “PM Narendra Modi reviewed the status of Human Resources in all departments and ministries and instructed that recruitment of 10 lakh people be done by the Government in mission mode in next 1.5 years.”

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Soon after the announcement, some ministries, including the Home and the Education, said they will be taking taking steps to fill up their vacancies at the earliest.

The measure comes amid the opposition’s frequent criticism of it on the issue of unemployment. A large number of vacant posts in different government sectors has often been flagged by its leaders.

During various assembly polls, opposition parties have tried to corner the BJP over the issue of unemployment, but the saffron party has been successful in neutralising the criticism with its planks of welfarism, development and Hindutva besides Modi’s appeal.

Political watchers believe that the government’s decision to make the job announcement in a big way is an acknowledgement of the unemployment issue’s resonance in a section of society, especially youngsters, and highlights its attempt to address their concerns before it may become a more potent issue in the opposition hands during the polls ahead, including the all-important 2024 Lok Sabha polls expected in April-May.

Lauding the recruitment drive, Home Minister Amit Shah noted that youngsters are the foundation of “new India” and asserted that Modi has been constantly working to empower them. His decision to recruit 10 lakh persons in the next 18 months will infuse them with new hope and confidence, he said while describing the ‘Agnipath’ scheme as a revolutionary initiative. BJP president J P Nadda said it shows the government’s emphasis on job creation for the youth and the focus on efficient management of workload.

Rahul Gandhi, however, took a swipe at the Centre over the announcement, saying this is a government of not ‘jumlas’ but ‘maha jumlas’.

In a tweet, the CPI(M) said that having “miserably failed” in his promise of crores of jobs every year with record high unemployment, Prime Minister Modi now “seeks to deflect criticism over his abysmal record” by announcing 10 lakh recruitments in “mission mode” in the next year and a half.

The BJP has also consistently refuted the opposition’s charge on unemployment, arguing that its various programmes have led to a rise in entrepreneurship and overall employment generation.

According to the latest annual report of the Department of Expenditure on Pay and Allowances, the total number of regular central government civilian employees in position (including in the Union territories) as on March 1, 2020 was 31.91 lakh as against the sanctioned strength of 40.78 lakh and approximately 21.75 per cent of the posts were vacant.

The report said almost 92 per cent of the total manpower is covered by five major ministries or departments — railways, defence (civil), home affairs, posts and revenue.

According to the report, against the sanctioned strength of 10.16 lakh in central police forces, 9.05 lakh employees were in position as on March 1, 2020.

Government sources said various departments and ministries were asked to prepare the details of vacancies following Modi’s direction to this effect and the decision to recruit 10 lakh people was taken following an overall review.
The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy said in its latest report that the number of employed in India jumped by over 10 lakh in May to over 40 crores, effecting a drop in the unemployment rate from 7.83 per cent in April to 7.12 per cent.

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