Labour and employment minister Mallikarjun Kharge denies that there is a rift between his ministry and the Ministry for Human Resources Development on vocational qualification frameworks. In an interview with Business Today's Sebastian P.T., he says his ministry is moving in the right direction on achieving its targets. Edited excerpts:
What importance does your ministry attach to vocational education?
The labour ministry has only an assigned, limited target for skilling . The Prime Minister's National Council on Skill Development, which was constituted in July 2008, coordinates all action for skill development. Actually, the Council is at the apex of a three-tier structure and is concerned with vision-setting and laying down core strategies. The Council is assisted by the National Skill Development Coordination Board chaired by the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. Further, to promote private-sector action for skill development, the National Skill Development Corporation has been set up by the Finance Ministry. It is headed by M.V. Subbiah, former chairman of Murugappa Group. Now, there are 17 departments involved with the PM's Council, and the Department of Labour is just one among them. Each of the departments has different targets; for instance, the health department has a particular target to train nurses and paramedics. The labour ministry has a target under the 'modular employable scheme' that is primarily aimed at skilling school dropouts, industrial training institutes or ITIs, and apprenticeship.
On the ITI front, we have made great progress. There were only 5,114 ITIs as of 2006/07. That has more than doubled in less than five years and stands at 10,344 by the end of 2012. President Pranab Mukherjee mentioned this in his recent address to the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament. While earlier there was just one shift for training, at present that has been increased to two-morning and evening, which means further increase in the intake of students. On the modular employable scheme, we have set targets for the states. Most of them are lagging behind, but we have asked them to change that. We have emphasised short-term courses such as, say, for television or mobile or electrical repairs, and so on. We have also upgraded the ITIs and World Bank assistance has been provided to those run by government. More private players are coming in, and they are taking much interest establishing training institutes that are specific to their industries.
The labour ministry had a target of skilling 2.5 million people for 2012/13, but some reports say that only about 14 lakh has been achieved. What is the actual number?
Whatever target has been given to us, we have been trying to achieve. We have a target to skill 100 million individuals by 2020, and the current year's target is 2.5 million. We have provided skilling for 14 lakh people under just one programme - ITIs. It used to be 700,000 people trained annually earlier, but that has changed. Apart from that, if we include, modular employable skills, or MES, and other programmes, the figure should come to between 1.8 to two million people. Again, it is dependent on how the state governments respond. On the apprenticeship front, there has been a little hitch as industries do not want to follow the roster system. They say they should be given the freedom to recruit who they want and the government should not insist on that front. However, to provide social justice, we have to insist on that.
There seems to be a turf war with the human resources development ministry, with the latter coming up with the National Vocational Educational Qualification Framework, ahead of your ministry's National Vocational Qualification Framework.
There is no conflict at all. There will be a turf war only if turfs are encroached. The Human Resource Development department's qualification framework is aimed at students who have passed matriculation and beyond, while ours is the traditional it is, for which the qualification is that of below the matriculation level and even includes school dropouts. Besides, it is not important who decides what. Our NCVT (National Council for Vocational Training) certificate and their polytechnic certificate should carry value across the world. That is more important. Our NCVT is focused on providing better training. Besides, there is no talk of merging the skilling of all the 17 departments in the PM's Council.
What is your take on the move by the Prime Minister Office led by S. Ramadorai to resolve the two different programmes on skill development?
Mr Ramdorai comes with knowledge from his wide experience in reputed private organisations. He is doing his best to address the country's skilling problems. He has held many discussions with us and we are fully cooperating with him.
Have structures such as the National Skill Development Council added speed to the skilling agenda or are they complicating the turf?
Through the National Skill Development Council, the various ministries, non-governmental bodies and experts have been able to share their respective experiences, including the hurdles before us in skilling. Importantly, when a meeting happens under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, everyone takes it seriously. All efforts are being made to remove obstacles to skilling. The Prime Minister is taking keen interest and is investing much time in this.
So, are we in the right direction to reap the much discussed demographic dividend?
The steps that we are taking now will help us reap the demographic dividend. My ministry has also requested the Planning Commission for more training centres for trainers as well. This is part of the proposed Kaushal Vikas Yojana that aims to provide more equitable access to skill development opportunities across the country by reducing regional imbalances such as in Naxal areas and so forth. We await the approval of this scheme.