By Vijay Sanghvi
The biggest question in everyone’s minds is will Modi be able to bring about a dramatic change and accelerate the pace of economic growth to put India on path of progress?
A conservative section in the party believes that the electoral majority was the result of the party’s past image and goodwill. It is resisting all Modi’s attempts to reform and accelerate the growth. This conservative section overlooks the fact that Narendra Modi had defined economic issues as the party’s top priority and relegated the religious issues to the bottom. It is what worked wonders.
Narendra Modi has been trying incessantly to introduce reforms in the economy since May 2014. He is convinced that unless India can attract foreign capital and their production mechanisms to come to India to make in India, the growth rate would not pick up. The sluggish flow of foreign capital has decelerated the growth rate in the past five years. He presented the clear picture of his vision in his reply to the debate in Lok Sabha on the President’s inaugural address to the first budget session of the parliament.
He pointed out India is a nation of youngest population with 65 per cent below 35 years of age. The advanced industrial nations were old with less working population. They need skilled hands to keep their wheels moving. India has a wealth of human resource that can support the rest of the world. But India’s potential can only be realized if these hands are imparted with skills to run giant wheels in other nations. He thus transformed into an asset, what was earlier thought to be the problem of educated but unemployed youth in India.
However during the year, actions for converting the potential into an asset were slow and confined merely to the formation of a separate ministry for skill developments. National Skills Development Corporation has been functional from May 2007. Like a typical sluggish governmental department, it has only been able to undertake 24 projects in the last three years. It claims to have imparted skills to 1,39,305 persons- including school leaving youth and employed workers in eight months in 2012. The statistics itself denotes the slow progress.
Let’s take a look at the magnitude of the problem in the international scene. 96 per cent population of South Korea, 80 percent in Japan, 75 per cent Germany and 70 per cent of Britain are skilled workers whereas only 2 per cent of the Indian workforce is skilled. Why so? Maybe it calls for a second look at the Indian education system that claims a literacy rate of 73 per cent.
What it means is that the Indian education system is merely delivering the ability for numbers and literacy and not the skills needed for meaningful works.
Narendra Modi himself identified the cause of the problem in one of his speech in which he cited the story from the works of Kaka Kalelkar a social activist. As per NaMo’s narrative, a young man sought Kaka Kalelkar’s help to get a job. Kaka asked him what he could do. The young man replied he had done BA. Kaka repeated his question several times and each time the young man told him that he had passed his graduation exam. But could not specify what skills he had acquired for selection in the field of his future work.
After Independence, the Nehru government adopted the model of five-year plans for economic development and expanding the industrial base in India. It laid the foundation for higher technical education institutes that — the prestigious IITs as we call them today. But there was no facility for imparting the needed skills for industrial activities – to students in the 17 years of their life that they give to schools and colleges. The British did not want to bear the costs of importing clerks and or men for lower jobs from England in 19th Century. As a result, the prime focus of the sop-called modern education system introduced to produce clerks to staff the British administrative system. Even today many manage to graduate but lack the basic skills.
The British had left only 50 Engineering Colleges with the intake capacity of 3796 students for they did not need more engineers to attend to development works. After 60 years since 1950, India today has only two thousand polytechnics with intake capacity of 2.65 lakh students. The NSDC chairman Dilip Chenoy claimed proudly that his corporation imparted skills training to 3440242 hands last year meaning a trained hand every second in the year. He hopes to take numbers to 60 lakh in the current year.
As many as 12 million youth — straight from schools and universities– plunge into the job market each year– lacking the basic skills. The problem is that they were not imparting the skills during the early school years but expected to have them after school. It is almost like taking a spade to dig well only when thirst aggravates.
Strangely NaMo hasn’t sought to bring changes in the education system to make job training as a part of skill building at the school level. He is facing resistance from within for the Sangh Parivar which also wants change in the education system but to introduce religious ethos and not imparting training. That is because of perceptional difference. NaMo sees the glory of India in future, and his mentors believe glory only in the past. NaMo is on a tricky ground and perhaps does not want to risk. But he can always initiate an intense debate over the need for drastic change in the educational system. That could be the good beginning.