The Prime Minister’s skilling initiative PMKVY is failing to fire in Assam, which pretty much reflects a countrywide malaise. The yawning gap between target and performance is giving a bad me to the ‘Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikash Yoja’. At the Assembly’s ongoing budget session, the State government has revealed that 21,080 youths were provided skills training in the two fiscals 2016-17 and 2017-18, for which Rs 31.4 crore has been spent. However, only 1,029 youths were benefited — of them, 65 maged to land government jobs, 119 found employment in public sector enterprises, 771 were absorbed in private sector and 74 youths became self employed. This translates to a paltry success rate of 4.9 percent. Judging from PMKVY target shortfalls elsewhere in the country, Dispur needs to take a hard look at the efficacy of various schemes being implemented in skilling centres across the State. The dismal state of affairs countrywide was laid bare last year in a report by the committee for Ratiolisation and Optimisation of the Functioning of the Sector Skill Councils. It took serious issue with the unrealistically large targets set up (and missed repeatedly) for the skilling initiative — 40 crore people targeted under tiol Skills Development Programme of 2015, with less than one-fourth of them being fresh entrants while the remaining three-fourth were to be ‘re-skilled or up-skilled’. Earlier too, 50 crore people were targeted for skilling under tiol Policy on Skill Development of 2009. The idea was to institute Skill Councils to cover high-growth and labour intensive sectors like construction, retail, automotives, transport & logistics, textiles, leather, food processing, healthcare, and informal sectors such as tourism, beauty and wellness, security and plumbing. But the report painted a confusing picture — revealing general lack of clarity, needless duplication of efforts and poor coordition. The newly set up Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship received budgetary allocation of Rs 1,804 crore in 2016-17, which was increased 1.5 fold to Rs 3,016 crore the next fiscal. However, it was found that while ministries like Textiles, Tourism, Commerce and Industry were given sizable targets of employment generation, these were not allocated corresponding works to help develop the necessary skill sets. The tiol Skills Development Council (NSDC) used data based on a study of doubtful authenticity; it also gave soft loans, equity and grants to private sector training partners, which were not repaid. The Skill Councils ‘arbitrarily’ fixed numbers of trainees and trainers — while this was done to claim funding, “the quality of training, assessment and certification suffered even as targets were shown to have been achieved,” the report pointed out. It all added up to a dismal picture of loot of government funds, substandard training, poor quality outcomes, youths remaining unemployable and therefore failing to get placement, and key sectors still looking for much-needed skills. This betrayal has come on top of the many shortcomings in the country’s vocatiol education and training systems, weak academia-industry interface, insufficient fincing and infrastructure. The upshot is that India remains saddled with less than 5 percent of its workforce having formal skills, which can be compared to 24 percent for Chi, 52 percent for US, 75 percent for Germany and 80 percent for Japan. This critical shortfall in trained human resources is making a mockery of India’s much touted ‘demographic dividend’ with three-fifth of the population in working age bracket, as well as Prime Minister rendra Modi’s fond dream of turning the country into the ‘skill capital’ of the world.
An unseemly controversy has erupted over the Assam Valley Literary Award with several members of the selection board calling it quits, piqued at the decision of award sponsor Williamson Magor Education Trust to confer the award on three litterateurs for year 2017. This is a sharp break from the past, for the prestigious award had always been conferred on one person in the 27 years since it was instituted in 1990. The three awardees this time are Yeshe Dorje Thongsi, Rita Chaudhury and Santa Tanti, each of them richly deserving of the award as outstandingly creative writers who have made sigl contributions to Assamese literature. Apparently exasperated at the whispering campaign, Rita Chaudhury had to go to the press to remind detractors about her credentials, which stand independent of the fact that she happens to be a State minister’s wife. After all, she has an enviable body of work to her credit, with the Axom Xahitya Xabha award back in 1981 and the Sahitya Akademi award in 2008 among several top recognitions coming her way. But the damage has been done with more and more people jumping into the fray, alleging politicisation of the award. With the goings-on in Axom Xahitya Xabha causing widespread dismay and the return of Sahitya Akademi award by some litterateurs protesting ‘intolerance’ still fresh in memory, an open season seems to have begun. It needs be appreciated that literary awards retain credibility when there is public faith in the process of litterateurs themselves recognising the merit of peers or newcomers. It would be a pity if this is called into question repeatedly, for it would only end up hurting the cause of literature irredeemably.