After a ‘lost decade’ of electoral autocracy and rising wealth and income inequality, the ruling party is not fighting the 2024 election based on its successes or record. Meanwhile, the Congress party, with its 2024 manifesto or ‘Nyay Patra’, has managed to produce one of the best manifestos in its recent history. It embodies the ingredients,  processes and commitment required to revitalise India’s constitutional democracy and jobs. The Five Nyay – on the youth, women, workers, farmers and marginalised sections – mark a new beginning in the country. Once implemented in letter and spirit, they could heal the wounds of society, bring the economy back to prosperity and restore constitutional democracy. Even as we believe these reforms should have preceded the economic reforms of 1991, it is timely to put them up now.

Here we focus only on the jobs-related commitments in the manifesto.

Youth justice, one of the Five Nyay, holds immense potential for jobs. Under it, the Right to Apprenticeship  promises that every post-secondary pass-out (whether a one year-certificate, two-year diploma or degree holder) a Rs 1 lakh annual stipend. There is already an Apprenticeship Act of 1961, which has not delivered apprenticeship opportunities in the organised sector as it was supposed to. With a workforce of 570 million in 2023, India still has no more than 600,000 formal apprentices. Except the Central PSU and state PSUs, neither large private corporates nor MSMEs have adopted apprentices. This is a serious problem for the youth, with youth unemployment rates doubling between 2012 and 2023 according to government PLFS data, or much worse (44% for 20-24 year olds according to CMIE data in 2023). This must change if the youth are to get a pathway to the world of work from their education.

The most successful apprenticeship programmes exist in Germany, which has had a record of maintaining the lowest youth unemployment rates in Europe. Young graduates suffer from a disadvantage in any labour market: they have no work experience. Therefore, employers are wary of hiring them. So the apprenticeship is an opportunity to a) work and receive a stipend, while b) getting training. It is the best of both worlds of work and education. That is why a one year Right to Apprenticeship is being welcomed by the youth, and even Indian employers.


Besides, the Skill India programme is not delivering. Therefore, it was wise for the Congress to adopt a Right to Apprenticeship, which  would boost both skill formation and employability. This is critical for realising India’s demographic dividend that will expire after 2040.

Besides, the Congress promise of filling 30 lakh central vacancies in the government sector is a recognition of the fact that India has among the lowest public or civil service per 1,000 population in the world. Filling vacancies will kill several birds with one stone: not only will regular government jobs with social security increase, but it will improve the quality of public social and economic services. It is important, of course, that Group D positions should still not be filled with regular permanent staff, as 89% of all government servants in India consist of Groups C and D staff (or lowest levels).

In addition, calling off the Agnipath scheme will instil a sense of pride and confidence in the youth. As important and praiseworthy is the guarantee of the party to restructure the Fund of Funds Scheme for supporting start-ups.

An additional promise in the Congress manifesto is notable. State government appointments in state after state have been held up year after year, on account of ⁠paper leaks. The Congress guarantees new laws to ensure the highest standards of integrity and fairness in the conduct of public examinations. In addition, the Congress plans to create a corpus to incubate start-ups, with allotments spread across all districts of the country for a period of five years. Youth below the age of 40 years can avail start-up funding for their business enterprises in any sector.

Equally important and timely is the promise of gender justice.

As always, women have been the worst affected during the COVID-19 pandemic in India, mainly because of the poor financial support that they had. Among the migrant workers deserting the urban areas, there were heart-wrenching episodes of suffering of women, including labour pains and delivery on roads. Had there been money with them, the casualties could have been avoided. The Mahalakshmi scheme promising cash transfer of Rs 1 lakh annually per household will empower millions of households and women in particular. The guarantees for keeping one-third seats of all legislatures for women candidates will bring gender justice in other ways.


In addition, filling 50% jobs in the Union government will further empower women. Women’s labour force participation in India is very low, and has been falling, despite the fact that young women are getting much better education. Such better educated women don’t want to be in agriculture, which they have been forced to join in the last three years, especially to work on the family farm.

The Congress manifesto also promises to undertake a comprehensive social, economic and caste census that will survey the population, their social and economic status, and communities’ share in national wealth and representation in institutions of governance to revolutionise India’s affirmative action policy. This is essential to implement another job-related guarantee: the Aarakshan ka Haq.  The Congress guarantees that it will pass a constitutional amendment to raise the 50% cap on reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes.

Participation justice (bhagidari nyay) forms the core of India’s constitutional democracy. It is not doles and transfers that pull people out of poverty, but equitable justice. The promise of increasing the participation of SC/ST/OBC communities in all wings of the Indian state will bring a phenomenal change in the self-respect of 85% of the population. This will correct the skewed and over representation of a few communities in the mainstream, in fact the domination they enjoy in India in every aspect of economic and social life. The promise of improving their participation in public works contracts will help reduce economic inequality across communities.

Finally, there are two other potential job creating promises in the Congress manifesto. There is a very promising new focus on MSMEs and supporting them. More importantly, the Performance Linked Incentive Scheme is to be totally restructured. Of the current PLI sectors identified for subsidisation to support Indian manufacturing, 12 of the 14 sectors are capital intensive ones. So in fact, rhetoric will hardly create new jobs. Congress wants to start a new PLI for labour intensive manufacturing which will create more jobs. This is essential since manufacturing share in GDP had fallen from 17% (its consistent share over the preceding 25 years), since 2016 to 13% of GDP by 2021. It has only just risen to 17% again. Manufacturing share of employment still remains lower; not surprising since total manufacturing employment, which was 60 million in 2012, had fallen to 55 million by 2019,and has barely climbed back up to over 60 million in 2022.

by Santosh Mehrotra and Bir Singh