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Calcutta Notebook

B J

Liberate skill development from bureaucratic moneymaking. Many small industries cannot pay the high salaries demanded by these skilled persons. They are somehow managing with less skilled persons. As a result their cost of production is high. The availability of larger numbers of skilled workers will spread the skills over larger area and help increase the growth rate in the economy. This will also lead to reduced cost of production.

The Government has been long aware of this problem. Diverse organizations of the Government such as Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technologies (CAPART) and Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) have been running such programs for decades. These programs have largely failed for two reasons. First reason is that the young are not interested in actually learning the skills. They are more interested in obtaining certificates that enable them to get government jobs. No wonder a recent opening for 400 peons saw 287 PhDs and 75k postgraduates applying. These large numbers have certificates without skills. The youth believe that they will be able to get a Government job by paying bribes. Their limited interests in enrolling in educational institutions is to get a certificate that enables them to apply for the job. This disinterest on part of the students in actual learning suits the wheeler dealers. A friend who has been associated with KVIC told this writer that the organization had provided training to nearly 50 lacs youth in the last six decades but only a few thousand were actually working in the trades in which they had received training. Many participants joined the training because it provided a small stipend and free food.

A large industry of fake educational institutions has been spawned. They take fees from students and give out certificates without providing any education. A person running an ITI in Faizabad District of UP said that of the 55-odd it is, barely 2 have one or two teachers. All the remaining only have hollow offices. Crux of the problem is that the prized Government jobs do not require either skill or education. It requires a certificate, hence there is no interest among the students to obtain education. That has led to the development of a huge "certificate industry" that goes by the official name of vocational education.

Literature on the topic says that there is a mismatch in the skills that are imparted and those that are in demand. This is a false lead because the problem of incompetent certificate holders is present in every sector. Another suggestion being made is that skill development programs are being run by 73 departments spread across 20 ministries. The Ministry of Skill Development is expected to coordinate these activities. It is like coordinating the activities of 73 thieves! "Coordination" will not create interest among the students to learn. Another suggestion is that industry must be given incentives to train more people. This will not work. The work of an industrialist is to produce goods and sell them. He cannot afford to divert his limited energies in other activities. An organization in Pune provided skills to the students but they did not give certificates or degrees. But they ensured that about one half of the time was spent by the students in industries. Industries too were happy because they were getting cheap workers. Result was that nearly 90 percent of their students got jobs even before they completed the course. This shows that there is neither a dearth of students who want to learn; nor a shortage of industries that are willing to give training. The problem is that this type of genuine activity is far behind. There is no program of the Government to encourage such activities. The limelight is grabbed by the certificate industry. In fact, the certificate industry felt threatened by the success of such genuine teachers and they painted this genuine work as that of quacks and had it closed down. Similarly the age old tradition of the child learning skills like pottery has been killed by Nobel -winning crusaders like Kailash Satyarthi. Large numbers of youth who would have been earning a livelihood are consequently running around with certificates!

The way forward is to stamp out the certificate industry. This requires that the salaries of the government servants be cut by one half. That will remove the charm of government jobs. There will be no takers for fake certificates then. Second step is to pay the skill development money by attainments rather than by activities. Presently, payments are made for undertaking a course. Whether the course led to the participants getting a job or starting their own business has no relationship with the payment. The payments for skill development programs should be split. About 25 percent of the money may be paid at the time of undertaking activity and the remaining should be tied to the number of participants getting jobs. Third step is to revamp the ITI and polytechnic system of the country and make it practical training oriented. The present day teachers working in this system are themselves the product of the certificate system. They have no skills themselves. They should be required to undergo practical training and the same must be tested. The time spent in field training in vocational courses in the developed countries is more than 60 percent against a bare two percent in India. The graduates from these institutions will get skills if they are placed in industries during training. It is necessary to relax the minimum wage laws to make it attractive for the industries to train these students. Fourth step is to exclude training-oriented work from the ambit of child labour laws. The most important agenda of skill development will move forward only if the Government liberates skill development from the stranglehold of bureaucracy.

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 25, Dec 27, 2015 - Jan 2, 2016