Relevance: GS Paper III (Economy)
Theme of the article
To create jobs, focus on the small sector Improving the ease of doing business for small and medium business is key to job creation.
The Indian economy is the fastest growing among all major economies in the world. However, last year the unemployment rate touched a four-decade high.
Present economic situation offers no hope to provide jobs
- With every new generation coming in, fragmentation of farm holdings will continue and migration to urban areas will increase. A sustainable agriculture will have to make do with fewer and fewer cultivators.
- Large-scale manufacturing projects attract big ticket investments and incorporate latest technologies. Cost of capital to cost of labour has drastically come down in recent years, thus raising the attractiveness of bringing in new technology which will kill jobs.
- The current rise in digital technologies, automation and robotics has strengthened these trends further.
- The government sector was once a key source of formal jobs but extensive use of contract employment and outsourcing to private firms, which also hire contract workers, has dealt a severe blow to quality jobs.
- By far the most potent policy weapon for creating new jobs at the bottom of the pyramid which reduces distress is the rural employment guarantee programme (MGNREGA). But here also allocation as well as attention to glitches are inadequate.
How to address this crisis of joblessness?
- The place to look for new jobs is businesses at the bottom of the pyramid and the place to begin is small units, even unincorporated ones where the business and the proprietor are financially undifferentiated. A favourable policy environment needs to be created for them.
- The same potential for growth and job creation exists among the small-scale sector.
- Thereafter come the small to medium size units which are incorporated and form the bottom rung of the corporate sector.
- The maximum policy focus has to be on improving the ease of doing business for small and medium business, contrary to the focus so far on the demands of the corporate sector which wields substantial lobbying power.
- Infrastructure for small businesses has to be available at a minimum. Without adequate and affordable power, water and access to roads, neither business nor jobs can prosper. Here local governments have to take the initiative.
- While the job potential in agriculture and industry is limited, it is the opposite in the case of services. Accounting for the largest chunk of India’s GDP service sector jobs exist not just in urban and semi urban areas but in the countryside too. Infrastructure is needed to take these urban amenities to rural areas.
- The one magic key to job creation is skills creation. In this the Indian administrative system has proved to be woefully inadequate. So policies and programmes are there waiting to be implemented.
Relevance: GS Paper III
Why has this issue cropped up?
The efforts to reach the 15 miners trapped in an illegal coal mine in the East Jaintia hills of Meghalaya since December 13 continue.
Issues with illegal coal mining in Meghalaya
- The Meghalaya government has no idea what happens inside these rat-hole mines, which are barely 2 ft wide, since mining is a private activity.
- Despite the National Green Tribunal ban of April 2014, mining continues in the State.
Was the recent disaster managed well?
- The district administration assumed the miners to be dead on the very day of the tragedy.
- The socio-economic profile also worked against them. They were the poorest of the poor who took a huge risk to enter a mine and dig for coal without any safety gear.
- When a mine is flooded, the immediate response is to stop further flow of water into it. This requires a hydrologist. In this case, a hydrologist arrived only two weeks after the disaster. So did the divers from the Indian Navy and the 100 HP water pumps.So did the geologists from Hyderabad.
- All these delays happened because there was no one person or agency to coordinate the rescue mission. This shows the kind of disaster preparedness we have in our country.
Questions that arise
There are many questions that arise with respect to rat-hole mining of coal.
- One, why does the state allow this archaic mining system, which has complete disregard for human life and safety?
- And two, why is Meghalaya exempted from national mining laws?
- Rat-hole mining, which started in the 1980s, has poisoned three rivers in the Jaintia hills: the Myntdu, Lunar and Lukha.
- These rivers have very high acidic levels. pH of the water and sulphate and iron concentrations indicate significant deterioration of the rivers.
- Acid mine drainage from abandoned mines was a major cause for water pollution.
- Acid mine drainage has rendered even agricultural land non-productive.
Arguments given for coal mining
- The coal mine owners say that rat-hole mining should continue because no other form of mining is viable.
- They claim that coal mining provides livelihoods for many.
- The other troubling factor is that coal mine owners are insisting that since Meghalaya is a State under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, national mining laws should be exempted here.
The scale of the coal mining problem
- The scale of the problem is clear in this one fact: there are 3,923 coal mines in one district with a geographical area of 2126 sq. km.
- Coal mine owners have left thousands of abandoned mines as human graves. The State does not insist that they reclaim and afforest those mines.
- In 40 years of mining and profiteering, the mine owners have till date not constructed a single hospital or even a school. There is complete disregard for corporate social responsibility because the mines are privately owned by the tribals.
What people of Meghalaya want?
- The tribes of Meghalaya are divided on the issue of rat-hole mining.
- Those who care for the environment and for a future for their children and grandchildren have been clamouring for an end to the practice of rat-hole mining and reckless limestone mining.
- On the other hand, the mining elite have mobilised forces to demonise environmental activists. A community of just over a million is now fragmented.
Should Meghalaya be exempted of national laws?
The Sixth Schedule was enacted to protect the community rights of tribals from any form of exploitation of their land and resources. How can it now be used as an instrument to protect an activity that is a private enterprise, that is inhuman, and that violates Article 21 of the Constitution?
The Central government and the highest court of the land should not allow this to carry on in one part of the country when strict laws are applied elsewhere.
However, there are two priorities requiring action before the next round of India Skills is held.
Relevance : GS Paper III
Theme of the article
Skill India needs a sharp realignment if it is to meaningfully transform people’s life chances.
In 2013, India’s skill agenda got a push when the government introduced the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). This organises all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude, just like classes in general academic education.
Pillars of skill development
There are five pillars of the skills ecosystem:
- the secondary schools/polytechnics;
- industrial training institutes;
- National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC)-funded private training providers offering short-term training;
- 16 Ministries providing mostly short-term training; and
- employers offering enterprise-based training.
Efforts towards skill development
- Govt has mandated that all training/educational programmes/courses be NSQF-compliant.
- National skill competitions, or India Skills, is a commendable initiative of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
- Teams will be selected to represent India at the 45th World Skills Competition, scheduled in Russia this year.
- Abilympics was included in India Skills 2018, for Persons with Disabilities.
- Sharda Prasad Expert Group report submitted to the MSDE in 2016.
- A majority of the participants in India Skills were from corporates and industrial training institutes; only less than 20% were from the short-term courses of the NSDC.
- Neither industrial training institutes nor corporates’ courses are aligned with the NSQF.
- If India Skills 2018 was only open for the NSQF-aligned institutions, it would have been a big failure. This indicates that the NSQF has not been well accepted or adopted across India.
- There is no clear definition of the course curriculum within the NSQF that enables upward mobility.
- There is no connection of the tertiary level vocational courses to prior real knowledge of theory or practical experience in a vocational field, making alignment with the NSQF meaningless.
- Efforts to introduce new Bachelor of Vocation and Bachelor of Skills courses were made, but the alignment of these UGC-approved Bachelor of Vocation courses was half-hearted.
- There is no real alignment between the Human Resource Development Ministry (responsible for the school level and Bachelor of Vocation courses) and the Ministry of Skill Development (responsible for non-school/non-university-related vocational courses).
- There is a need for more holistic training and the need to re-examine the narrow, short-term NSQF-based NSDC courses to include skills in broader occupation groups, so that trainees are skilled enough to compete at the international level.
- We must a reduce complications caused by too many Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) anchoring skill courses. For example, there is no reason to have four SSCs (instead of one) each of textile, apparel made-ups and home furnishing, leather and handicrafts.
- If we want Skill India trainees to win international competitions and if we want competitors to come from schemes of the Ministry, we must find a way to provide broader skills in broader occupational groups.
- Sectors should be consolidated in line with the National Industrial Classification of India. This will improve quality, ensure better outcomes, strengthen the ecosystem, and help in directly assessing the trainee’s competence. It might also bring some coherence to our skills data collection system.
- India could learn a lesson from Germany, which imparts skills in just 340 occupation groups.
- Vocational education must be imparted in broadly defined occupational skills, so that if job descriptions change over a youth’s career, she is able to adapt to changing technologies and changing job roles.
Skill India needs a sharp realignment, if India is to perform well in the World Skills competition later this year.