I listened to the budget speech as religiously as I used to do earlier when it was necessary for adding to my professional excellence at work.
Mr. Chidambaram had proposed two missions in his first budget as UPA’s Finance Minister in 2004 that I got interested in. Both were of immense importance. First was his missionary zeal to get all the old water bodies in the country that were getting silted and vanished, renovated. It would have helped in irrigation, fishery, and tourism too. The FM never tells how many of the water bodies have been repaired and put back to their old glories. However, the FM has not dropped it from his agenda and has smartly put in to the sates’ responsibility with a statement: “Agreements have been signed with the World Bank by the Governments of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka under the project to repair, renovate and restore water bodies. The three agreements are for a total sum of US$738 million that will benefit a command area of 900,000 hectare. I am confident that similar agreements will be signed soon between the World Bank and the Governments of Orissa, West Bengal and some other States.” Why couldn’t the FM give a figure of the water bodies repaired in different states? Perhaps, the states didn’t take up the project seriously and carry out the work. Why can’t the creation of water bodies be a prime task of NREGS in rural areas where water scarcity causes poor farming yield? It can also be good prevention for the flood too, if carried out in a planned manner.
The second of his proposal right in 2004 budget was to upgrade the large number of Industrial training Institutes that was getting ineffective in providing the skilled manpower for the industrial development. Unfortunately, though the Finance Minister as well as CIIs and FICCI have been taking steps, but the progress is dismal. It hardly shows the tremendous need of the industry that look for double-digit growth. Let us look at what the FM has talked about it in the budget speech. “Under the World Bank assisted scheme, 238 ITIs are undergoing upgradation. Under the PPP scheme, 309 ITIs in 29 States have been identified with corresponding industry partners and agreements have been signed in 244 cases. 300 more ITIs will be upgraded in 2008-09.”
I think all the institutes would have undergone up-gradation by now. CII also has failed to keep the promises. Basically, India requires these institutes in thousands in both types Industrial Training Institutes that provides diploma courses as well as trade schools or vocational training institutes that train for trades of all types. And all these institutes would have been attached with some or the other private companies that would have been made responsible for the upgradation at least as its contribution to inclusive growth. The announcement of setting of a non-profit corporation with Rs 15,000 crore as capital from government, the private and public sector and bilateral and multilateral sources to address the major concern of skill shortage and skill development in the Budget 2008. Only time will tell if it succeeds to meet the challenges of manpower requirements of the country.
Today, India is really sort of skilled manpower. As many from the industry, particularly the booming realty sector point out the serious scarcity of masons, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, fitters, and persons of many other skills. As reported, in some state of south, people from Sri Lanka are joining the labour force. Where are the trade schools for filling this vacuum? Can the formal training institutes meet the demand? I feel the education at secondary and higher secondary level must make the training in one employable skill as compulsory for every student. Another institution that can be called on to help in building the skills among the willing young men and women of the country is the defence facilities, if the facilities in the industrial enterprises of various sectors are not sufficient.
The country has 9.5 lakh schools and 220 million schools students. How can there be a shortage of manpower of all the skill levels required from this big a mass? Why do the children drop out from the school? Mid-day meal can keep it only to a very little extent. Scholarship also can make only a little contribution. Education at school level must be made interesting and attractive enough for the kids who come there. Parents as well as the children themselves not start feeling the education as difficult to understand or useless I their perception. Schools from the primary to all levels must have more thrust on exploiting and nourishing their latent talent and creativity with more labs and laboratories to create or experiment with their ideas. Formal traditional knowledge from books is essential but not sufficient enough to keep them attached to the education process.
Why the FM and his government can’t keep the promises made? Why should a person like me who keep on following some specific promises believe in what he promises in the present budget such as IITs in Bihar, Andhra, and Rajasthan? And further will the next government or the FM if not UPA or Chidambaram comes back again have any commitment for the projects? For instance, what happened to five AIIMS promised or interlinking of rivers?