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Where there is a will, there’s a way
Even as the country is witnessing job crisis, a silent but significant change has come in the lives of rural India, which now hopes to be torchbearers of their community
India is adding an Australia to its population every year and its teeming youth is increasingly getting restless and frustrated for want of job or a meaningful occupation. Government initiatives like Make in India and Skill India were expected to create more jobs and train the unemployed youth for gainful employment. However, despite best of systems being in place and apparently with good intentions, progress on the creation of jobs and generation of employable or self-employed youths has been somewhat tardy — a phenomenon which cannot be simply attributed to the slowing down of the economy and other such external factors.
Moreover, non-availability of a reliable and regularly updated State wise data of job creation and employment, both in formal and informal sector, has made it rather difficult to evaluate the efficacy of the said programmes. While there are many takers for skilling programmes, they don't necessarily result in employment at the end of the day for lack of a job or suitable finance to start their own business venture. Very often, the same person ends up opting to acquire another skill, wasting precious resources and defeating the very purpose of the programme. Linkage with ‘Aadhaar’ could help detect such cases but may not be very effective as training providers and assessors are more interested in conducting the course and generating volumes rather than keeping a tab on its misuse.
Moreover, regardless of the child's socio-economic background or scholastic abilities, present day school syllabus are preparing them for a ‘white collared' occupation viz, engineering, medicine, accounting, civil services etc, requiring conventional academic brilliance. Vocations, which are in high demand, and are offering assured entry to the youth into the job market as paramedics, production assistants, welders, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, tailors, tourism assistants, food and beverage employees etc, and is seldom the first priority for the youth. All such ‘skilled' occupations are more often than not viewed as an alternate option, except probably in the case of hereditary artisans, who have managed to corner a market for traditional livelihoods.
Nevertheless, in a bid to keep out bogus vocational training providers, which exist merely on paper and collect funds, skill development schemes have mandated strict regulations regarding infrastructure, even stipulating the carpet area — number of equipment and other facilities etc. This unfortunately has resulted in concentration of such centers in urban India as the rural areas are normally not equipped to create such facilities, thereby reducing opportunities of the rural youth, especially women who suffer from constraints of mobility. In any case, skilling need not result in further promoting migration of the rural poor and unemployed to the cities. Inspite of these shortcomings and obstacles, the Nation Backward Caste Finance and Development Corporation has hit upon a winning formula which ensures quantifiable and satisfactory results at the end of the day.
Over the past two years, it has facilitated training of around 200 women beneficiaries in Ganderbal, Anantnag, Bandipora, Budgam, Kulgam, Srinagar, Kupwara districts of Kashmir in carpet weaving. Space has been rented from a local resident and looms have been installed so that women, including housewives can attend the training programme for a few hours without neglecting their household chores. The Indian Institute of Carpet Technology organised this course as per their syllabus over a six month period after which the master trainers were motivated to play the role of entrepreneurs and employ the trained women for limited hours to work in the same premises. This way, post training, the learning hours of women get converted into their earning hours and help them supplement their household income.
Similarly, a large group of persons who had been traditionally involved in manual scavenging, whose next generation was keen to come out of this time warp, was identified. However, in order to convince the conservative community elders to let their children move out from the districts of Moradabad, Jaypee Nagar, Bulandshahr etc to Murthal, Haryana, to undergo training in state-of-the-art facility of the Central Institute of Plastics Engineering Technology (a primary training centre) was first created in Moradabad. After a few months of training, when the youth and parents gained confidence, they were relocated to Murthal. Today, a happy bunch of 144 youngsters (119 boys and 25 girls) are just about completing their training and are looking forward to their first job assignment as production assistant, in places as far away as Rajasthan. A silent but significant change has come in their lives. They now hope to be torchbearers for the renaissance of their long marginalised community.
(The writer is a former Member, Railway Board)
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