Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday continued his relentless criticism of the Narendra Modi-led government over the rising unemployment in the country. Gandhi said that “employment was dignity” and wondered for how long would the government deny according this dignity to its citizens.

“Massive unemployment has forced the youth to call today National Unemployment Day,” Gandhi said, referring to a campaign launched by the youth on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday, to lodge their protest against the government policies. “Employment is dignity. For how long will the government deny it?”

The Congress leader also tagged a media report that claimed over one crore people registered on government job portals seeking employment opportunities, but that only 1.77 lakh jobs were available. Hours before, Gandhi wished Modi on his birthday.

Meanwhile, the Congress also joined the National Unemployment Day campaign, which became the top trend on Twitter on Thursday. Twitter users used the tag to remind the prime minister of the acute economic crisis and joblessness they are facing.

In a series of tweets, the party criticised the government for its policies and blamed it for the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It said that the unprecedented unemployment crisis was a Modi’s “cruel idea of a return gift” on his birthday.

“The unplanned lockdown of the Bharatiya Janata Party stagnated every Indian’s life and their economic activities; they were stripped of employment, they stopped working,” the Congress said. “But till now the BJP government has not been able to give any relief to the countrymen.”

The party added that the looming crisis put the “future of the youth in jeopardy, the future of India in jeopardy”. “Of all the problems plaguing India right now, Modi ji this one begs your urgent attention,” it said. “Please do your duty as the prime minister.”

On September 12, Gandhi mocked the government and said its “well planned fight” against the coronavirus pandemic had put India into an abyss of historic gross domestic product reduction, loss of employment, stressed loans and globally daily highest cases and deaths. Earlier in August, the Congress leader had warned that the government would be unable to provide jobs to its youth within six to seven months.

The Indian economy saw its worst ever contraction of 23.9% in the second quarter of April-June, as the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus upended livelihoods and businesses. The numbers reflect the onset of the deepest recession in India since 1996, when the country first began publishing its quarterly GDP figures.

Since the pandemic shut businesses in March, unemployment in the country has surged sharply. On August 18, a report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy said nearly 50 lakh salaried persons lost their jobs in July as a result of a partial lockdown.

Several global rating agencies have made gloomy predictions for the Indian economy. The Asian Development Bank has said that India’s economy will contract by 9% in the 2020-’21 financial year. On September 8, American credit rating agency Fitch Ratings sharply lowered its growth forecast for India, saying that the country’s Gross Domestic Product for the financial year 2020-’21 is expected to contract by 10.5%, instead of its earlier estimate of a 5% contraction.

The Narendra Modi-led government imposed a complete lockdown in the country from March 25 to April 19, banning all except essential activities. From April 20, very limited economic activities were allowed to resume. In June, the government began the “Unlock 1” phase, slowly reopening the economy and devolving decision-making power to the states.