We have been used to hearing demands made for a wide variety of human rights, but none so far for the right to skills. It was Prakash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of Punjab, who highlighted the importance of making the right to skills a law on the same lines as the right to information, the right to food and the right to education, so that the country’s workers become competitive in the global market. Badal was addressing a meeting of the subgroup of the tiol Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog held in Shillong on Monday as its chairman. The meeting was attended by the Chief Ministers of Meghalaya and Aruchal Pradesh and representatives of more than eight States. For some reason, the Chief Minister of Assam, who had reasons to be more concerned about skill development than anyone else, was not present at the meeting. Pointing to the 109 million new entrants into the job market, Prakash Singh Badal said that about 460 million people had to be “re-skilled and up-skilled by 2020.” He observed that India, despite having the youngest population, has just 12 per cent of a skilled workforce. He pointed out that in several other developed countries the skilled workforce was about 80 to 90 per cent. He linked the low per capita income of India to the low level of skilled workforce. When asked why the level of skilled workforce had remained so low in India he said that the required attention to upgrade the skill level of the workforce was never given due attention. He added that the need of the hour was to mobilize the population about the importance of skilled manpower right from the rural areas to the women of the country. The deadline for the State governments to submit their views and suggestions on upgrading the skill development in their respective States is June 25. Anyone who is thinking of skill development needs to keep in mind the industrial and economic levels of the States concerned. Quite obviously, a highly industrialized State like Maharashtra, Gujarat, or Kartaka would have the need for enhanced skill levels of a much greater sophistication than States like Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya or Chhattisgarh that have hardly any industries worth talking about. A State like Assam that has seriously defaulted on planning for power for the last three or four decades, is now in a situation where there is not enough power even for lights and fans not to speak of power for any heavy industries. In a sense, therefore, Assam has missed the bus as far as heavy industries are concerned. This State will take two or three more decades to come up to the level of industrialization that exists in the more developed States of the country. And by the time it has made up for the lost decades, the other States will be several decades ahead in respect of industrialization. As such, the upgrading of skills for a State like Assam cannot be the same as the upgrading of skills required for a highly industrialized State. And considering that the power situation in the State is unlikely to permit any major growth in industrial development, it might perhaps be necessary to think of different skills for this State. One can more or less foresee that even in the coming years, the kind of skill enhancement required for Assam is likely to be geared to the needs of the tourism sector and the service sector not connected with administration. People here might be better off with skills that they are going to need for the tourism industry and for the service sectors appropriate to our State and the need of those sectors. As such, the enhancement of skills needed for the automobile industry could be totally redundant for a State like Assam where automobile manufacturing is unlikely to be a part of the industrial scerio for quite a few decades. The skills we need now will have to be related to the tourism and hospitality sectors. What is more, in view of the fact that we need greater enhancement of skills related to the service sector, it might be worthwhile to underscore cerebral skills rather than just manual skills. However, apart from the mere enhancement of skills, we need strong motivation among the youth to dedicate themselves to a culture of purposeful work year after year.
The Right to Skills