New Delhi: Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday slammed the policies of the Narendra Modi government, saying economy faces fragile recovery, there was inadequate job creation and uncertainty ahead for public enterprises.
Addressing the 31st plenary session of Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) here, he said there was dissatisfaction among workers over “anti-labour and unimaginative economic policies of the NDA government”.
“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.
“In the name of structural labour reforms, efforts are being made to reduce the scope for secure industrial jobs in favour of contract labour and hire and fire approach. 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.
“We must enlarge the available space for resolving industrial problems through peaceful dialogue involving all the stakeholders of the tripartite process – namely workers, industry and government.”
He said Congress has always believed that 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, but the movement has to take into account fast-changing social and economic conditions and make an objective assessment of the present regime’s economic and social policies and their implications for the working classes.
Noting that removing poverty was a major task before the country and requires a high rate of economic growth and a rapid increase in employment opportunities, Manmohan Singh said there was a broad consensus that India’s economy needs to grow at an annual rate of about eight percent and there should be 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 expand its coverage 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.