Last Friday, Assam Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal iugurated the first Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra (PMKK) of the Northeast at Panjabari in Guwahati. The centre which is spread over 12,000 square feet of floor space, is geared to the objective of providing free training in essential skills and employment to at least 10,000 candidates in three years. “We will set up skill development centres in every district and block of the State so that our youths can hone their skills and either start ventures or get absorbed in companies. From our side, we will approach the various firms to ensure that the trained people get jobs,” the Chief Minister said. These centres are being set up under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yoja of the Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. The tiol Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) was created to be the pace-setter for skill development in the country. The short-term courses run in the PMKKs are aligned to the tiol Skill Qualification Framework, which is a competency-based framework that organizes all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude. In Assam, the NSDC has partnered with the Bengal-based skills development company, Orion Edutech and Anjaybee Green, a mission in the agro-business sector.
Over the years, we have been emphasizing the importance of skill development in Assam and the Northeast to promote industrial activity and to usher in the kind of industrial development that alone can take the region forward as a developed region of India instead of remaining a hinterland colony providing precious raw materials to the industrialized States. Time and again, we have sought to emphasize the fact that merely talking about industrial development will not ensure miracles in the region. There is a dire need to develop the appropriate skills for industry in the 21st century, and to augment our power generation instead continuing to pretend (as we have done for years) that industrial development can be achieved with about 250 MW of power generated in Assam and the rest bought at exorbitant rates from other States. During the 15 years of the Congress government in Assam headed by Tarun Gogoi, we had a great deal of talk about reviving the closed power generating units of the State and ensuring adequate power by the year 2006. What actually happened was that the power generation capacity of the State got reduced without anyone losing any sleep over the crisis.
While the launching of the first PMKK at Guwahati and the plan to start 25 more of them across the Northeast in the first phase is excellent news, what is not very good news is that in Assam, the NSDC should have chosen to partner with two Bengal-based skill development agencies. After all, Bengal is no longer an acknowledged State for either industrial development or skill development. The Assam government would have been far better off partnering with States like Maharashtra, Tamil du, Kartaka or Gujarat that have made huge strides in both industrial progress and skill development. We are not convinced that Bengal is in a better position than any of the aforesaid States in the matter of ensuring skill development in Assam. As such, the genuine fears in the realm of skill development will remain. Having turned the ITIs into pathetic caricatures of centres for imparting skills, are we about to let something similar happen to the business of skill development in the State? After all, it will not do to forget that in 69 years of independence, New Delhi has retained the north-eastern States as an indigenous colony of India, deprived of industrial development so that it can remain a hinterland for the developed States of India in the matter of providing precious raw materials. We would like a categorical assurance form the Centre that this initiative towards skill development is a genuine acknowledgement of the decades of neglect that the region has suffered from, and the objective is to make the Northeast as industrially developed as the advanced States.