SUNNY VERMA: The country is facing an economic slowdown. How do you plan to link skill development with employment in such a situation?
We need skill development, and in ensuring that, we can go in two directions. Some people want more employment opportunities, while others seek to move towards entrepreneurship. Keeping this in mind, the government has brought in supporting schemes through which both these sections can get economic and advisory support… Every scheme should have an objective. Skill development is not the only aim here. I say this with full responsibility. The aim is to instill skills in people and prepare them in a way that they can go on to increase their employment opportunities and also be self-reliant in some way.
As far as economic growth is concerned, and I am not in denial, I don’t think that there is a slowdown. Growth is a continuous process. Sometimes taking more money and sometimes taking less from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)… it’s a process. (On August 26, the RBI Central Board had decided to transfer a record surplus — Rs 1.76 lakh crore — to the government.) I believe that when it comes to difficulties, the government has been working continuously to find solutions. In fact, this government has changed the culture of Delhi… The Modi government has proven its work culture. If some people are hurt by the actions and decisions of the government, then the government’s provisions will ensure that there is a solution for that too… Things are going in the right direction. I believe that with (the growth) of small industries, there will be growth in the country and better employment opportunities as well.
SUNNY VERMA: Skill development starts early, when a person is a student, and then there are stages of employment etc. In that regard, is your ministry coordinating with the Ministry of Human Resource Development? Have there been any discussions about a change in syllabus, or introduction of internships?
We have to coordinate with everyone. Your question is from the education perspective, and work is being done in that regard too. We have the Jan Shikshan Sansthans (that provide vocational skills to non-literate, neo-literates and school drop-outs by identifying skills that have a market in the region of their establishment). They were made to cater to gaps in the regular school syllabus. We are working on giving it a new dimension.
In some countries, skilling takes place alongside traditional schooling. In our country too, there is a need for this. I have made a team of officers for this and we have been talking about it. It is yet to be finalised, but there have been discussions over two aspects of such a system. For example, introducing some changes in the syllabus, or offering skilling options to students after Class 10, depending on their interests. We are discussing how we can initiate skilling with regular education… Maybe some courses can be introduced, and they can be done for three-four hours. Countries such as Germany are doing this. We are also trying to coordinate with the HRD Ministry.
SANDEEP SINGH: Skill development is very important in the automobile sector — from dealerships to manufacturing, it generates a lot of employment and requires a lot of skills. But lately, the sector has been facing a slowdown, and that will also affect the employment opportunities that the industry has to offer. How do you plan to deal with this?
I admit that things have slowed down in the auto sector. But it’s temporary, and I hope things will look up slowly. The government is taking steps in that direction. As far as employment is concerned, we are pushing for that as well. For example, there has been an uptick in employment prospects in the hospitality and tourism sector. We are urging people to take up those opportunities.
LIZ MATHEW: In 2017, when the then minister of state (Independent Charge) of skill development, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, had left the department, reports had suggested that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was unhappy with his work because skill training was not linked to job creation. Is it linked to jobs now and how many skilled people have jobs today? By when can we expect a report on this?
If you cumulatively look at the past four years… about 53 lakh people have been skilled. As far as job creation is concerned, approximately 12,60,000 youngsters have been given jobs.
LIZ MATHEW: The Modi government has faced criticism for growing unemployment and lack of jobs. Since you have taken charge, what has been done to ensure more job creation? Has there been any addition to the training process?
I have tried to focus on about 37 SSCs (Sector Skill Councils), autonomous, industry-led bodies set up by the National Skill Development Corporation, which create occupational standards and qualification bodies, develop competency framework, conduct ‘Train the Trainer’ programmes and skill gap studies, and certify trainees on the curriculum aligned to National Occupational Standards developed by them). We have tried to explain to them that this is a huge opportunity. We have told them that you are private (entities), but you are respected much like government bodies. This opportunity for certification does not exist for just respect. They are in regular touch with me and have assured me that they will increase employment opportunities in the country soon.
SHALINI NAIR: In the last few years, many social sector ministries have used the Socio Economic and Caste Census-2011 data to identify beneficiaries for their schemes. How has your ministry used the information to reach out to the marginalised sections of society?
We have modified our apps. The PMKVY (Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, the government’s skill development initiative) dashboard has also been modernised. Industries have been (reaching out to the marginalised sections) through their Corporate Social Responsibility schemes.
Also, we are looking to make a team for this, I recently held discussions with my officers too. The skilling gap, requirements need to be identified, and we have given instructions in this regard. There will be work done on it. For example, we sent a team to Jammu and Kashmir. I had instructed them to focus on the requirements of the different regions (of the state), in the way Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing.
SUNNY VERMA: Do you have any plans related to Kashmir in the ministry?
Yes. A report on our visit will be made soon. I will also visit the region. We are looking at developing Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) wherever needed. We will provide all the training systems that are needed. In traditional sectors such as tourism, which the Ministry of Tourism is looking into, we are trying to spot areas where skill development can help.
SUNNY VERMA: Apart from J&K, are you looking at introducing special schemes in other regions, such as the Northeast?
I have visited the Northeast region and held meetings with all the eight states. Ministers from six of the states and officials from the other two were present at the meeting. We realised that there is need for progress in the region, especially in the field of skills, and so we decided to develop a centre in Guwahati. It will ensure that people from states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Mizoram, and Tripura, don’t have to rush to Delhi for everything. All the important requirements and guidance will be made available to them through the (Guwahati) centre.
I recently met a few people who informed me that in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh not a lot of work has been done with regard to skill development, even though I was told it is not difficult to do so in the region. So I decided that since these states are considered among the good states of the country, better skill development work should also be done there. There will be no shortage in encouragement from the Centre for any state that wants to move forward.
RAVISH TIWARI: You served as minister of state, HRD, in the previous government. In the past few years, there have been protests by students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, the University of Hyderabad, Banaras Hindu University… Why does the government appear to be afraid of students?
No, it’s not like that at all. There is no such thing as being scared of students. In the past there have been student unrests in Vietnam, in France, each country has its own way of dealing with them. Today’s youth talk a lot about fast-paced development… Our government should focus on it, work in that direction. Our government is not trying to dismiss students in any way.
About JNU… Some people believed that JNU only belonged to them…and that is where the difficulty arises. Some people decided that JNU was made only for some special people… and we believe that JNU was made for everyone. There is some difficulty there. I also think that JNU is for all political parties, not just one.
VANDITA MISHRA: You mentioned that there have been many political changes under the Modi government. Can you tell us about some of them?
Compared to any other political party, we have performed better — on public interest matters, on subjects of development, providing amenities to people, public welfare etc. As far as change is concerned… Earlier, schemes were announced, but they never reached the ground. Now, under the Modi government, all schemes are being looked into, there is a political set-up and ministry to do the groundwork. There wasn’t such a work culture before. All governments have been making schemes on the same issues, but earlier they were not monitored on the ground level. The Modi government has been monitoring its schemes on a day-to-day basis. That is why schemes such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Jan-Dhan Yojana have been so successful. The Swayam Sahatya Samuh scheme, which was started at the village level, has been really successful in the last five-six years. It allowed women in villages, from each block, to meet the Block Development Officer, and many such officers, at least two-three times. Today, there is no block in the country where women self-help groups have not been developed… So the change is in the working culture, ensuring that schemes are being implemented at the grassroots level.
RAVISH TIWARI: Your government has also faced criticism for not listening to opinions that are opposed to yours… People are asked to go to Pakistan, are called anti-national if their views differ from that of the government. Is that the way forward?
Everybody has their own way of looking at things. In the BJP, we have no hidden agenda. When have we ever had a political meeting where at least two-three proposals don’t focus on the issue of nationalism? We say things with conviction. There are many people in this country who prefer to mix things… They feel that they are being stopped, but it’s not true. Fortunately, our society hasn’t witnessed such a situation yet.
At the state level, the BJP has a larger presence compared to the other parties. But at the Centre, everybody has an open discussion. If we had been hiding something, or we wanted to stop someone, why would we provide these opportunities for discussion? Maybe because our voices are heard more in the country, we communicate to the public in a clear, simple manner, we have such a big, universally accepted leader whose voice directly reaches even an uneducated man of a village…so the voices of these people aren’t heard. Like in the case of JNU. Their pain was that their voices were not heard in more than two-three states of the country. So why do they blame us? Why is the public, the youth rejecting them? We aren’t forcing anybody to do anything.
The primary objective of the Modi government is to ensure kanoon raj (the rule of law). Whether it’s someone in the BJP or outside, if it’s an illegal activity, the government doesn’t support or encourage it. This is the most important aspect of our working culture.
ANIL SASI: You mentioned that over 50 lakh people have been skilled, but only about 12 lakh have been placed. Is that number satisfactory? Do you track their placements?
There are also unregistered people (who have been skilled). There were about 80 lakh people in the last four years… Under the Prime Minister’s scheme, our training partners do 80 per cent of the training, and the remaining 20 per cent is done after they are employed. The wages earned by them depends on the 20 per cent part — based on which I mentioned the 12,60,000 figure. There could be a person who has undergone 80 per cent of the skilling but has not been able to find employment… But just because he is out of training doesn’t mean he is sitting idle, he is doing something.
Until now, the tracking period was for three months, but we’re thinking of extending it to a year.
RAVISH TIWARI: You have been the Uttar Pradesh unit president of the BJP. Recently, there have been reports of violence and law and order disruptions in the state. What is your government doing to address these issues?
First, one must understand that Uttar Pradesh is a very big state with a population of over 20 crore… In such a big state, if a person has a poor mentality, or if another person is involved in some land-property dispute… These are the two types of incidents happening in the state. Strict action has been taken, and that is what our government stands for. We are providing better governance at both the Centre and state level and we will continue to do so.