The country's ambitious plan to skill 500 million youth by 2022 is skidding on inter-ministerial fights, government lethargy, tardy implementation and a far from robust public-private model for skill development. In a three-part series, Business Standard looks at how the skills mission is not just running behind schedule, but is in real danger of getting derailed. Today, read how internal fights are coming in way of skilling targets
The ambitious target of providing marketable job skills to 500 million youth by 2022 is at risk, owing to differences between government agencies on whose action plan should be implemented.
The initial plan was for 17 ministries to work with the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). The policy envisaged clear targets for each ministry, based on the personnel needs each sector would have to address in 10 years.
Apart from sheer government lethargy, what took a toll was refusal to let go of jurisdiction and parallel decisions on the same issues. For instance, the national framework for vocational education had a draft each from both the labour ministry and its human resource development (HRD) counterpart. The latter, despite being exhorted by various committees from 1964 to boost vocationalisation, seemed to get its act together on the issue only in the last two years. It has now come up with a framework for this, though the labour ministry was already working on one in a European Union-aided project.
This has brought to the fore the absence of an anchoring body on skill development. When the prime minister’s panel on skill development discovered this crisis of plenty, it passed on the task of reconciling the two frameworks to the Planning Commission, which also oversees the NSDC. However, the commission, besides staking claim to a piece of the skill development pie, offered a third set of recommendations, which was not accepted by both the ministries.
Primarily, the divide was on three issues. The first contention was on the issue of qualification for skill development. The labour ministry wanted the process to link artisans, the unorganised sector, dropouts and the like. In the HRD ministry’s scheme of things, the process would start from the IX standard, excluding 40 per cent of the targeted 500 million youth.
The target of 500 million was arrived at after considering there would be about 700 million youth in 10 years, 200 million of whom were likely to be graduates. Skill development, therefore, would be needed for the rest.
Planning Commission member Narendra Jadhav, who prepared a report seeking to reconcile the two stands, backs the labour ministry on the issue.
The second contentious area is setting occupational standards. The labour ministry wants the skill council to carry out the process, and the government to notify it. However, the HRD ministry feels NSDC should vet and notify the standards. The Planning Commission, on its part, says it should be the notifying authority. The labour ministry also claims neither NSDC nor the commission can issue a gazette notification and thus, should not carry out a task the authority for which is with the ministries.
The third grey area is the assessment, accreditation and certification authority. The Planning Commission and the HRD ministry want a joint certification by the industry and the regulatory body. However, the labour ministry says this would lead to delays. With the 35 to 50 sectoral skill councils envisaged, it would lead to a large number of authorised people, it said, adding a single body, with representation from various industries, should do the job.
Says R L Singh, deputy director general (training) in the labour ministry: “We will stick to our position, since that is the only legal way to go about it. If our approach is rejected, we will reject a view opposed to it. The only way reconciliation is possible is for the HRD ministry to confine its skill development programmes to school students, leaving the rest of the youth to other ministries.”
Narendra Jadhav said, “I have examined the matter inside out. But I can talk about it only after my report is presented to the prime minister’s committee on skill development.” However, given the huge differences between ministries, it has now been decided that S Ramadorai, advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the NSDC, would reconcile all the versions and bring out a single one. While the internal battle plays out, the 500-million target remains merely on paper.