T he Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) set up in various states occupy a high place in Prime Minister rendra Modi’s Skill India vision. He has gone on record saying that while the country took pride in its IITs in the last century, it needs to think how to give ITIs the same importance in this century; he has set for ITIs the goal ‘to acquire global recognition for producing quality, skilled manpower’. The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yoja (PMKVY) is being given a massive bottom-up push to impart skills, assess it and fund the training — while ensuring that only in-demand skills get subsidized through better coordition between government and industry. Plans have been drawn up to rope in the private sector for in-house training and reimburse its cost from a Central fund. This ‘reimbursable industry contribution’ (RIC) model is followed in many countries, notably in Germany with 86 percent and Chi with 85 percent private companies skilling their workers themselves. In India, skills training has been largely government-driven, which explains its disjunct with market demand. Mindful of projections that the country will have a surplus manpower of 4-5 crore over the next decade, Prime Minister Modi wants Skill India Mission to skill up 50 crore youths by 2022, so that India becomes the ‘human resource capital of the world’. The ITIs are an important component in this scheme, along with polytechnics, vocatiol colleges and other training institutes. But seeing the condition of several ITIs in Assam, it is clear that this State will struggle to be in the skills picture anytime soon. It will not be an exaggeration to say that building new ITIs in Assam have been turned into sinkholes of public money. As many as 15 ITIs were sanctioned for Assam by the erstwhile UPA government at the Centre under the PM’s Multi-Sectoral Development Programme (MSDP). But the previous Congress government in the State never took this scheme seriously, so much so, that construction of only three ITIs have been competed till date. Even these 3 completed ITIs in Kamrup and Dhubri districts are yet to begin skilling youths. As for the remaining 12 ITIs that remain incomplete, the pattern that has emerged is of political interference, Dispur’s delay in handing over plots and allotting work orders, contractors bagging the works due to proximity with ministers and then stopping work due to non-receipt of funds. In undivided gaon district where two ITIs in Samaguri and Hojai constituencies remain half-done, the contractors have taken the State government to court for not releasing payments. Considering the role ITIs can play in benefiting students from poor families with targeted skill-based courses, such irresponsibility and callousness is unforgivable. In case public money was misappropriated by the powers-be in the previous regime in Dispur, it needs to be looked into as well. The present ruling dispensation should ensure that the new ITIs are up and moving soon. Having been in charge of Skill Development at the Centre earlier, Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal should be the right person to redeem this situation.
Skilling our youths