Back to basics—Employment Generation must be the priority in skilling ‘mission

By Navin Bhatia

‘On September 17, all the media were abuzz with the peon recruitment news from Uttar Pradesh. For 368 posts of peons advertised, 23 Lakh applicants had applied of which 2.2 Lakh were B.Tech and 255 Ph.Ds! Just imagine the cost of skilling 2.2 Lakh B. Tech students @ Rs 12 Lakh for the four year course, which will be around Rs 2640 crore or Rs 718 Lakhs per peon if all of these were recruited. The news was really shocking and actually a rather rude wake up call for all of us to realize, reflect and consider urgent action plans to arrest such hopelessness.
There is this widely held myth of Skill shortages. I call it myth because there is no shortage of skilled people. In fact, industry associations like CII, FICCI and others have misled the policy makers and country particularly since 2005 by repeatedly complaining that industry is facing acute skill shortage. The fact is corporate India which accounts for just 1% of the jobs had Negative net additions to the jobs during the last 10 years. Not a single industry has suffered because of manpower shortage. On the contrary industry is not willing to give even Rs 100 per month as salary premium for skilled and certified manpower by sector skill councils.
Another myth is the projection of Job demand surveys by NSDC. In 2008, NSDC conducted a survey across the country and sectors and came up with a report that there is huge demand of jobs but we do not have skilled people. It now appears most of the projects were unscientific. As per the surveys by 2022 India needs additionally 17.04 crore jobs Textile (1.68 crore), Construction(4.73 crore), organized retail(1.73 crore), Automobile (3.5 crores), Transportation(1.77 crore).Where are these jobs? The entire survey was statistically invalid and fake as none of the so called new jobs have seen the light of the day.
As Per NSSO during 1999-2004 a record 59.4 million new jobs were added in the 5 year period whereas during 2004-13 only 4.7 million new jobs were added in the 10 year period. It says 18 million young Indians are looking for jobs every year. And while India’s GDP is growing between 7 to 8 % per annum, it is facing a job less growth.
Why are we trapped in jobless growth? We all know 56% of Indians are working in the agriculture sector. We also know our agriculture productivity is half of China and one fourth of Israel. Interestingly, Israel gets one tenth of monsoon water per hectare than us. We know effective irrigation is our core hindrances in enhancing agriculture productivity and thereby increasing farmer’s net income. Then why in the last 20 years our policy makers, state and national political leaders haven’t paid heed and focused, researched and implemented any state specific projects to interlink rivers, build canals, ponds, means of drip irrigation (like Israel)? These projects would have not only created millions of localized jobs and skilled workforce but would have benefitted farmers, agriculture and India in the long run. It is more baffling when one realizes that Sutlej- Yamuna Canal as a model had benefitted millions of farmers in Punjab & Haryana!
Similarly, the golden quadrilateral higway project created huge jobs during the year 1999-2004 but we never supplemented it by building rural roads or adding more to the length of railway network from existing 66,000 km. Looks like national leaders ,bureaucracy are caught in day to day routine and procedural work. No one has will ,intellect , time and energy to create jobs for millions of Indians in Irrigation (projects to interlink rivers, build canals, ponds, means of drip irrigation),Infrastructure(rural roads, railroad, ports), MSME( credit support, marketing linkages & technology integration). The hard news from UP must change that now, please!