The NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working towards doubling India’s economy to $5 trillion by 2025 and doing so allows India to emerge as a global economic super power. The democratic mandates in the North East are clearly towards ensuring that India remains on the path of economic development by choosing development over corruption, wider participatory democracy over narrow dynastic politics and progress over regression. The people recognise that an India cleansed of corruption is paramount to achieving higher levels of economic growth than what the country experienced. While the BJP government is continuing to systematically eradicate corruption, it is also ensuring that progressive economic policies required for economic growth are implemented continuously without any hinderance. One such policy is ‘Skill India’, which is perhaps one of the most important initiatives to tackle unemployment.
India’s diverse workforce is categorized into agriculture – 47%, industry – 22% and services – 31%. India adds 12 million new workers to its workforce every year and more than 90% of this workforce is in the informal sector. The government’s employment generation programmes are aligned to these market realities and do not infringe on the freedom of individuals to pursue employment options on the basis of their individual choice. Currently, over 40 skill development programmes are being implemented by over 18 central ministries such as the PMKVY, DDU-GKY, DAY and SDIS. On the other hand, programmes such as the Mudra Yojana, RSETI, Aajeevika, NIESBUD and SJSRY support micro entrepreneurs opting for self-employment. Therefore, these programmes collectively give individuals the option to choose between wage employment or setting up their own businesses. This is in line with the BJP’s 2014 election manifesto “Economic freedom implies that Government will not get in the way of the freedom of individuals to start and operate legitimate businesses. Increased economic freedom will break open the economic space to new entrants, especially in the form of small and medium-enterprises, creating jobs and prosperity.”
In the more recent past, the Congress party has made job creation a major political issue and has spurred a political debate in the country. Chidambaram sets two pre-conditions for this debate: recognise and acknowledge the distinction between ‘job’ and ‘self-employment’ and the creation of ‘aspirational jobs’.
While there is a clear and obvious distinction between rozgar (employment) and kaam (job), it is important to note that the discussion was about the achievements of the Prime Minister’s Mudra Yojana, an example of which, as explained by the Prime Minister, is a Mudra Scheme beneficiary setting up a pakoda shop to secure his livelihood. The Prime Minster himself acknowledges that this is employment (rozgar) .
Employment can be either wage-employment or self-employment. And Chidambaram’s response to this is:
These tweets were followed by debates in parliament, media and ‘pakora protests’ orchestrated by the Congress party on the streets. From citing ‘ILO’s definition of employment’ and equating ‘pakora vendors to beggars’, the hue and cry was aimed at clearly distinguishing between a ‘job’ and ‘self-employment’. Chidambaram used this occasion to also accuse the BJP of distortion and deception.
Any discussion on the outcomes of a micro credit facility programme such as the Mudra Scheme can only be about self-employment/micro entrepreneurship and not about aspirational jobs unless of course one deliberately chooses not to acknowledge the 630.52 lakh micro enterprises employing 1076.19 lakh persons. The Congress party has unfortunately chosen to deride hardworking micro entrepreneurs by equating their jobs to begging in order to score political points when in reality micro entrepreneurs are the largest job creators. In full recognition of the contribution and importance of micro entrepreneurs in not only creating jobs but also contributing to India’s economic growth, the BJP-led NDA government launched the Mudra Yojana that has already benefitted 10.38 crore micro entrepreneurs. Of the total Mudra beneficiaries, 76 per cent are women and more than 50 per cent belong to the SC, ST and OBC communities. With women and deprived sections of society opting for micro entrepreneurship in such large numbers, Shri Arun Jaitley has doubled the lending target in this year’s budget.
It’s unfortunate that someone as distinguished as Shri P Chidambaram has gone public with such falsehoods despite glaring facts and evidence that prove just the contrary. Hard facts speak the truth that Chidambaram cannot. Chidambaram claims he empathises with the poor and aspirational and this was probably why he created the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), which has been a legacy baggage for the BJP government since May 2014 and was India’s skill development fiasco during the UPA government’s tenure. As Finance Minister and Home Minister, Mr. Chidambaram personally entrusted the NSDC, a then unregulated private company, with the responsibility to disburse public funds through its STAR and Udaan schemes to other private entities in which the NSDC itself has ownership by way of an equity stake and assets through low-cost loans. From 2008 to 2014, the NSDC and its joint initiative partners capitalized on the gaping loop holes of these two poorly regulated and ill-conceived programmes to misappropriate hundreds of crores of public funds rather than create aspirational jobs. The Government of India’s Sharada Prasad Committee dismisses any significant contribution to human capital development in India by the NSDC or its partners besides exposing a number of fraudulent practices.
Yet another instance where the Congress party failed to create aspirational jobs was under the SGSY-Special Projects wherein the programme was found wanting in quite a number of other ways as well:
|Sl. No.||Particulars||UPA I & II: SGSY – Special Projects||Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY)|
|1||Proposal appraisal and sanction||Sanction on nomination basis and later changed to first come, first serve||Four levels of verification, quality appraisal and a scoring mechanism|
|2||Project timelines||Loosely defined and often not adhered to||Clearly defined SOPs with proper administrative systems in place|
|3||State participation||Largely absent with no role in sanction or implementation responsibility||State-led sanctions, implementation and monitoring|
|4||Funding / budgets||Inadequate with 25% of the project cost to be raised by training companies leading to ambiguities and fraudulent UC reporting||Fully funded by government as per approved common norms.|
|5||Project implementation||Poor implementation with no proper systems and procedures and failed policies||Well-defined standard operating procedures supported by progressive policymaking|
|6||Training centres||Poor quality, non-existent and located within workplace as market insertion support||Exclusive top-quality training centres set up with proper approvals and monitored periodically.|
|7||Syllabus/course content||Not prescribed / No standards||NCVT or SSC in full compliance with NSQF to allow career and academic progression|
|8||Trainers||Not prescribed||ToT as prescribed by NCVT or SSC.|
|9||Candidate enrolment||Not verified leading to large-scale bogus enrolments; weak inspection and monitoring leading to rampant fraudulent practices||Aadhaar-backed biometric attendance with CCTV monitoring and recordings periodically reviewed|
|10||Training sessions||Not defined; no standards; no quality parameters||As per NCVT/SSC norms together with mandatory DDU-GKY modules – soft skills, IT training, and English communication. Increased focus on quality outcomes defined by industry with on-the-job training (OJT) component.|
|11||Assessment & certification||Proposed by PIAs themselves in complete violation of mandatory third-party assessment criteria, by and large bogus, no industry or government recognition, sometimes undertaken by own subsidiary, often no assessments undertaken||Well-regulated third-party assessors appointed by RDAT or SSC. Candidates receive industry validated, government-recognised certificates compliant with NSQF|
|12||Jobs||Weak placement verification process, bogus placements, gross violation of minimum wage, placements, if any, predominantly in unskilled / semi-skilled job roles, no clear placement criteria. High attrition jobs and career stagnation leading to high levels of dropouts||Well-defined placement criteria, compliant with minimum wage norms together with PF and ESI. Placement incentives to promote employment in right jobs with career progression and low attrition|
|13||Scale||Unscalable model with only a few handpicked implementing agencies identified based on rapport rather than capacity & credibility||Implementing agencies selected through a formal EoI and quality / technical selection process. Scale increased 100-fold with much higher programme quality and programme integrity|
|14||Overseas Jobs||None whatsoever||Top priority with special incentives|
|15||People with disability (PwD)||Unstructured and compromised to a great extent. No special provisions for PwDs which was part of the existing programme||Separate programme norms and increased budgets with special focus on PwD’s needs like disabled-friendly infrastructure and trades across sectors identified and categorized for PwDs|
|16||Public awareness and industry reach out||Literally non-existent||Effective outreach through formal IEC and nationwide branding through print and electronic media and social networking|
|Industry relevance||No policy/ weak programmatic response. LoIs irrelevant and even bogus / forged||Robust and strong policy focus on industry participation. QP/NOS (job roles) validated by at least 30 industries across large, medium and small sectors. Jobs in industries verified during quality appraisal before project sanction. Syllabus and training content validation by industry. Mandatory guest lectures and industry visits during training. Strong OJT component. State government also conducts job fairs and MoRD has a strong and robust industry partnership policy led by a dedicated cell with DDU-GKY|
Programmes like the NSDC, Star Scheme and SGSY-SP are implemented by the government to create ‘relevant jobs’. Data, going back some 10 years, pertaing to job creation, is available for all to see and one will be able to see how many relevant jobs the Congress party has provided to India’s aspirational youth. Unlike the Mudra Yojana, these were government efforts to secure ‘jobs’ not ‘self-employment’. Therefore, a discussion on the outcomes of these programmes will reveal which government has actually worked towards securing ‘jobs’.
The Rural Skills Programme in its current form as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) is a far superior programme in every aspect when compared to the SGSY-Special Projects. During the UPA I and II rule, SGSY-Special Projects reported having organised very many unverified if not bogus training programmes and provided placements. Jobs, if any, were generated only in the unskilled or semi-skilled category requiring little or no skilling intervention. According to the ILO, programmes such as the SGSY–Special Projects are market insertion programmes as these cater to the unskilled and semi-skilled jobs market that require little skilling.
With a presence in just three of the thirty states, a bare minimum representation in the Lok Sabha, and an ever-declining representation in the Rajya Sabha, the Congress party is indeed faced with an existential crisis. But even if it manages to sort out its existential crisis, it still needs to deal with an ‘identity issue’ crisis. The Congress party is no longer engaged with issues that really matter to the people. Its stubborn refusal to break free from the ‘Congress Culture’ has alienated it from the people. It certainly is the responsibility of the Congress party as the main opposition party in parliament to perform its constitutional duties but spewing a host of lies on the nation undermines the very foundations of democracy that the BJP has sworn itself to safeguard.