Over the past one and a half years, a total of 838 young people from Mizoram’s rural and urban areas have completed skills training in concrete, glazed tiles and aluminium work from The Young Mizo Association, the state’s largest community-based organisation.
J Lalsailova, a core member of the YMA’s central committee, said at Friday’s simple passing out ceremony at the organisation’s Aizawl headquarters, “There is a lot of trouble throughout the North-East these days. Some have died in ILP agitations, some lynched due to alleged crimes, and elsewhere even the railways has been targeted because it is seen as a potential demographic game-changer. We are very fortunate to be able to do something else entirely.”
“We all know that most tribal communities in the North-East are not even large enough to fully occupy a neighbourhood in a city like Kolkata. But to preserve our lands and our communities, we must be prepared to do something worthwhile, and this kind of training is long-term and effective,” he said.
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Walking up to the stage before he and 35 others were formally handed their certificates for having completed a course in aluminium works, Lalzokhuma, a resident of an eastern Aizawl neighbourhood said, “I am very grateful for the training because this is a means at which we can prevent outsiders from taking over our economy, not in a violent way but with skill and knowledge.”
The state government’s Labour and Employment department and Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Board (BOCWWB) have been active partners in the training process by providing finances to help fund the program that attracts much more than it can accommodate. The aluminium works training, for example, saw more than 200 applications, and a second batch of 60 will start learning from next week.
Francis Lianmawia, assistant commissioner of the BOCWWB said, “It used to be that money used to flow out of Mizoram in the form of wages to workers from outside. But if locals keep acquiring these skills, then it will help boost the local economy.”
Unlike other tribal-dominated states in North-East India, a vast majority of businesses are controlled and manned by locals, who are also to be seen at various kinds of manual labour except some construction-related works for which non-locals are conventionally employed due to better skills and work cultures.
Among the Seven Sister States, Mizoram has the largest percentage of tribals with 94.5% of its roughly 11 lakh residents belonging to various Scheduled Tribes, according to the 2011 census. But with demographic profiles changing in favour of non-locals in most neighbouring states, Mizo community leaders have been seized by what they believe will be the best way to keep non-locals at bay – training and encouraging locals to dominate blue-collared jobs.