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Interview: Skill development can be a milestone in India's progress, says Rohit Nandan, Secretary, Skill Development Ministry
In the wake of rising unemployment in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making conscious efforts to address the issue. A separate ministry for skill development is created to give high priority to this issue.
Senior journalist of, Sanjay Mishra spoke to Rohit Nandan, Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship about the ministry's future plans. Here are excerpts from the interview.

Q: Unemployment is a huge problem in India, and it is constantly on the rise. How will the Skill Development Ministry address this issue?

Ans: Firstly, I must make it clear that our Ministry's work is not to give jobs to people, but to build their skills. Often we are asked how many people got jobs after training. Only the market decides how many people are hired. IIT doesn't give jobs, IIM doesn't give jobs. They only prepare their students with excellent standard and reputable skills. That's why firms and industries are automatically driven to these institutes to hire students.

Q: But still hiring is quite low even among skilled workers. Why?

Ans: According to the available data, 50% of working population of our country is self-employed. If a plumber is offered a job for INR 10,000 and he is able to earn INR 1000 per day, why would he take up a job? Obviously he would like to work on his own. Even motor mechanics, electricians earn good money by working on their own. I personally believe a skilled person does not need to worry about his income as he will always have multiple resources.

Q: Why was there a need to create a separate ministry for skill development? Many government departments and ministries are already running skill development programs in rural as well as urban areas.

Ans: The Skill Development Ministry has been created with two objectives. First is to bring all the skill building programmes run by various ministries and departments under one platform. We want to standardize the process. Currently, some courses are offered as seven days training, some for a fortnight and other for a month. The fee also varies. That's why there is a need for a common platform, which will establish a uniform standard for each course.

Common norms were set by the government after April 1, 2016. Now, departments are not free to decide the course and content for the training. Standards have been set for each level of training. In these standards, we have defined the desired outcome of the training, number of hours, methodology and the required job norms. Our Minister, Shri Rajiv Pratap Rudy, is very determined to set high standards for each skill so that a trained person can be the best in his industry.

Our second objective is to design a signature programme by the ministry.

Q: Now-a-days, even engineering and MBA students face difficulty in finding jobs, they are also in a position to be self-employed. Do you think, there is a lack of resources and opportunities in this country?

Ans: That is true, but I don't think there is a lack of opportunity or resources. The problem is that they are not getting quality education. Every year, engineering and MBA colleges are opening in large numbers but the quality of education is dropping. So you can't expect that students coming from these colleges will be able to get good jobs. Also, the infrastructure is insufficient to produce a good engineer or a manager. According to a survey, only 8% engineers have ability to work in industries.

As far as resources are concerned, I don't believe they don't have money. If students can bear INR 5-7 lakh tuition fees, they can definitely afford to start their own work. In my view, parents should also make an accurate assessment of their child's abilities and guide him accordingly.

Q: Globally, India ranks second in terms of population. Do you think increasing population pressure is also adding to the burden of unemployment?

Ans: If we compare to other countries, the problem is not too bad. In India, the actual unemployment is 2.2%, which is almost equivalent to the US. The issue here is that the people who consider themselves unemployed have 10 to 20 acres of land. I would like to narrate one incident - in one district when I was a collector, a boy came and said he should be given a government job. I asked him how much land he had. I was surprised to know that he owned 18 acres of land and still called himself unemployed. I said, "brother, you're in the position of hiring others, why are you searching for a job." We have a problem of mindset. Unemployment is a curable disease. It can be dealt with effectively if people searching for jobs introspect on their abilities and qualities. Everyone has a talent. What they need is how to set a target and how to achieve it.

Q: What is your opinion on people migrating to cities in search of jobs?

Ans: People who are migrating from villages to cities, might be coming to work for their survival or in search of a better life. I believe that migration to big cities is not the only option. These people can certainly get better job near their towns or villages. On the contrary, labourers and daily wage earners who are fighting hard to make a living in big cities find it very difficult to save any money here because of high expenses. So the idea of a better life is not actually true. Now TV cables and internet are easily available in villages. So, they become impressed with the glitter and dazzle of big cities. But the ground reality is quite different. Remember, when MNREGA started, a lot of people returned back to villages. I always say that the workers in villages are better than cities. The government also prefers rural development. This strategy would prevent migration.

Q: India is an agricultural economy, yet farmers have extremely low income. Why farmers are not been given proper training to encourage them to cultivate effectively?

Ans: I think agriculture shouldn't be done as the only source of income but as a supplementary income. Dependency on agriculture is a sign of backwardness. However, the contribution of agriculture in the economy is still great despite the fact that it is a losing proposition for farmers in most parts.

As far as training is concerned, the government has laid out plans for a number of farmers to be aware, and more plans are being made. In the 80s, we were not self-sufficient in terms of grain and milk, but today we are self-dependent. We should thank to the green revolution and white revolution. Today everything is available in sufficient quantities. Stores are filled with grain. Population pressure on agriculture is continuously increasing, agriculture lands are reducing but demand of grains are increasing. So there are big challenges for farmers. Farmers need to be trained and scientific farming is required.

Q: On the issue of skills development, how is the coordination between the Centre and the State governments?

Ans: We have not received any protest from the States nor any kind of politics has been seen. In fact, it is the responsibility of each State to skill their people and provide them employment opportunities. And they cannot ignore their responsibility by blaming the central government.

Q: State governments are also working for skill development on their own level. What kind of interaction do you have with them?

Ans: We have set the standard, which all state governments are following. There is no disagreement on this issue.

Q: How is the certification done? Is it a centralized certification process?

Ans: We have set standards in terms of certification. For the certification, we see the training standard and accordingly we issue the certificates. We give different type of certificates - one is from NCBT by ITI. This is for short term courses (1-6 months). Second is from CSBT that is for Sector Skill Council. Sector Skill Council has set the standard by which they are in conformity with the industry. This means that the industry determines the level. What type of mechanics, plumbers, welders etc. are required, industries have to decide and accordingly, they start training. Industry also determines how they will be tested and from where and who will be the assessment agency.

Q: Does the ministry keep data of skilled workers?

Ans: Yes. Visit our website to find all the data in MIS. This has been done so that any company, any industry that requires skilled people, could pick people according to their requirement.

Q: Is the ministry also thinking about providing jobs to skilled people?

Ans: As I have told you, we are not giving jobs, but from this year we are applying the condition for service providers that 70% of skilled people should be placed.

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