On 14 June 2022, Prime minister Narendra Modi instructed all government ministries and departments to recruit 10 lakh people in ‘mission mode’ within 18 months, after reviewing the Human Resources status in all government departments and ministries. While this decision was aimed at stimulating employment for India’s youth, many opposition parties have alleged this decision to be election-centric.
According to the Quarterly Bulletin of Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS), the youth unemployment rate in urban areas in India from October-December 2021 was 20.8 percent. A single scheme might not be sufficient to completely eradicate the crisis of unemployment, but it can increase the participation of women in the labour force and if implemented efficiently, it can gradually bring down the unemployment rates as well.
Why this scheme?
Unemployment and inflation have been rising since the pandemic hit India and the Prime Minister was compelled to declare a national shutdown. While the percentage of self-employed persons (above 15 years) increased to 40.7%, more than 7 million people lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and related restrictions in April 2020. In 2021, a concerning relationship was observed between the unemployment rate and the labour participation rate - The unemployment rate was high even when the labor participation rate declined (unemployment rate includes people actively looking for jobs). This implies that even when lesser people were looking for jobs, they were not able to successfully find work for themselves.
To provide relief, the government launched the Atmanirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojna in November 2020. Under this scheme, Rs. 27 lakh crore was to be utilized to boost employment opportunities post COVID-19. Nevertheless, a recent assessment of manpower in government departments and ministries indicated that several positions still lie vacant. To fill vacancies in the government sector, the Prime Minister ordered recruiting employees in ‘mission mode’.
Impact on the Youth
Minister of State for Personnel, Jitendra Singh, has called this decision to be people-centric as it will not only contribute toward the development of a $30 trillion economy but also provide an opportunity to the youth to work with various government departments, increasing their skill and employability.
Impact on Women
Evidence shows that the labour force participation rate of women dropped by 1.2% (from 21.2% to 20.1%) between April 2021 to June 2021. The new recruitment scheme can be used to increase the employment rate of women by reserving certain opportunities out of the 10 lakh jobs exclusively for women. Other incentives can also lure them to take up these opportunities offered by the government sector.
Reactions to the scheme
While lauded by many Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers, this scheme has received crushing criticism from politicians belonging to other political parties. Criticizing this scheme to be an “election mirage”, Mayawati has blamed the BJP government’s decisions and policies for rising unemployment and inflation in the country. She has also made a crucial point about how no initiatives have been taken by the government to fill up the vacant seats reserved for SCs, STs, and other backward classes (which are far more than 10 lakh) who belong to the strata of society which is most plagued by unemployment and poverty. Similarly, Owaisi and Rahul Gandhi have questioned whether this scheme is similar to the promise that the Prime Minister made in 2014 regarding the creation of 16 crore employment opportunities which has not led to much fruition.
Data suggests that the maximum number of vacant posts (2,47,502 vacancies) present are in Defense. In order to fill these up, the government launched the Agneepath scheme on 14 June 2022 which shall be enforced from September 2022. As per this scheme, all recruits (called “agniveers”) will be hired on a 4-year contractual basis and at the end of 4 years, only 25 percent of recruits from all batches will be retained.
Why the criticism?
Although the Agneepath scheme has been made for the benefit of the people, it has received substantial criticism from the public. The major issue which has been identified in this scheme is the lack of job security. The scheme eliminates the traditional scheme of receiving pension payments post-retirement and counters the aim of job security that government and government jobs provide. However, it is key to note that the 75 percent of recruits who will be laid off after the fourth year will be entitled to a financial package worth Rs.12 lakh, giving a head start to their lives. Loans to start a business will also be provided to retirees on a priority basis. Apart from this, the government will provide bridging courses for retirees wishing to pursue higher studies, and priority will be given to Agniveers in job applications at private and public firms
Another area of concern stems from the clause that only candidates between the age of 17.5-23 will be eligible. The public is anxious that only a limited number of them would be able to apply to the armed forces. However, it is important to understand the rationale behind this. This age restriction not only ensures that the soldiers in the army are young and agile but also promotes the greater use of technology in the armed forces since it will be easier for younger people to understand and operate it.
Since no pilot programs have been run to evaluate this scheme, the true pitfalls and implications of this scheme will only be identified after the implementation.
If this scheme is implemented efficiently, it can prove to be successful in reducing India’s unemployment rates. It also has the power to bridge the gap between the number of jobs offered and the number of applicants. If the government launches initiatives to improve access to education and the quality of it alongside this employment scheme, it will not only provide the younger generation with the tools and skills to make themselves more employable but will also increase overall development in India.
(Written by Anushka Chib and Edited by Anoushka Gehani)