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Fireworks at GoM,ministers oppose skills upgrade body

Idea of an NSDA was mooted by PM Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day speech in 2012.

Written by Swaraj Thapa | New Delhi | March 29, 2013 2:52:51 am

A meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) which last week cleared the setting up of a National Skill Development Authority (NSDA),saw seven out of 11 participants express reservations against the new body,and a spat between Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

The GoM recommended the setting up of a cabinet committee on skill development headed by the Prime Minister to look into inter-ministerial disputes,but a decision on the jurisdictional location of the NSDA — whether it should be under the cabinet secretariat or the Planning Commission — was put off until the next meeting on April 4.

The idea of an NSDA was mooted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his Independence Day speech in 2012. He had said it was necessary to implement skill development programmes throughout the country in a coordinated manner.

At the GoM meeting last Friday,a majority of members expressed fear that the authority would transgress into the ministerial domains. Among those who opposed it,according to sources,were Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal,HRD Minister M M Pallam Raju,Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge,Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo,and Jairam Ramesh.

Sources said Sibal was of the view that the NSDA would only result in yet another bureaucracy within the system. Ramesh is learnt to have expressed a stronger view,arguing that he was opposed to having even the finance ministry or the Planning Commission.

Jairam reportedly got into a direct scrap with Anand Sharma when the latter suddenly remarked at one point that MNREGS was leading to a de-skilling of human resources. “The MNREGA is not de-skilling,” Ramesh is learnt to have shot back.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram,who chairs the GoM,had to then intervene and steer the discussion back on track. Seeking to dispel apprehensions,Chidambaram argued that there was a need for standardisation and certification of skills in all fields. He cited the example of Mercedes Benz,which he said had taken 500 Indian welders from its plant near Chennai to Germany to re-train them because they did not fulfil quality assurance parameters.

Chidambaram also indicated that existing certification done by ministries — like ITI courses run by Labour,or polytechnics under HRD — would not be disturbed,as NSDA would only take up subjects that did not fall within the purview of any ministry; for example,construction workers.

Housing and Poverty Alleviation Minister Ajay Maken,who supported the NSDA proposal,is said to have pointed out that the authority would not create another bureaucracy but in fact subsume three existing bodies — the PM’s Council on Skill Development,the office of the Adviser to the PM on Skill Development which is currently headed by S Ramadorai,and the Mission on Skill Development under the Planning Commission.

The NSDA is to be headed by a chairman of the rank of a cabinet minister,and would have a director general at the level of additional secretary. Disputes between ministries on jurisdiction would be taken to the proposed cabinet committee on skill development under the PM.

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