Dignity is a universal human aspiration, and a first step in the flowering of society. Looking at the Indian (Hindu) ideal of the 4 stages of human life- Brahmacharya, Grihastha, Vanaprastha and Sanyasa, in the modern context; the common thread for successful maintenance is dignity in all the stages. It is acknowledged all over the world that work brings dignity in human life and therefore as a corollary, jobs are a pre-requisite to that.

 

Much has been spoken about India being at the cusp of reaping its demography dividend, only if every youth had a job! Indeed! the alternate side to this would be internecine fratricide and a great upheaval, which many semi-religious groups notably the Bramha-kumaris are already warning of. In fact if one looks at the path to development, whether in Americas, Europe, Japan or China, the examples have one thing in common- mass participation of people in a relatively new economic activity associated with dismantling of an older order. Internal and external migration has been another factor with perhaps the exception of Japan. With the world now having been overpopulated, the prospect of migration as an alternative has diminished significantly. Therefore youth in India have no alternative but to plunge whole -heartedly into an intense economic activity to build a truly modern India.

 

Can India copy the model of OBOR (One Belt One Road), which has been adopted by China, to find a continued outlet for its economic engine? India’s federal structure and noisy democracy are a social barrier for such unity of purpose. Notwithstanding the vehement objections, the preceding statement may elicit and to compound it further, lack of comprehensive technical capability comparable to that of China is also another significant factor. India’s growth experience so far shows that our genius lies in private initiative. In-fact the scale of the jobs challenge is so enormous, that we have almost no option but to rely on private enterprise to solve this problem, but it needs to be supported by direction, regulation, and training, which is what the country is looking for from the government.

The doyens of industry in the private sector, have been complaining that much of the fresh graduates are unemployable and of a rather poor skill set. Much of this, has to do with the state of the governance of the country from the early-mid seventies, when governments stopped investing in the basics of governance such as education, healthcare, law and order. The result is there for everyone to see. New government schools are non- existent, only the very poor go to the government hospitals and you have to have your own network of family and friends to leverage power to overcome the rampant lawlessness in every sphere of society. However, the topic being jobs and to restore dignity in our youth, I have proposed in the following 3 areas of focus that have been articulated by the government, but needs a little more innovation and implementation rigour.

 

Skilling India:

Education system in modern India is intrinsically bookish and with the exception of medicine and few other professional courses, few graduate with essential life skills. How many young graduates know about the basics of home plumbing, electrical wiring, erection of walls, roof building, crafting a wooden toy table or furniture or to sew either cloth and leather? These small skills eventually build up to bigger skills like, understanding mechanics of cars, boats, air planes, assembling complex electronics, wiring generators, solar electricity generation systems or district cooling systems just to highlight a few. How can we then expect India to transform herself within a decade into an innovative manufacturing powerhouse to produce goods that the world would want to buy? It is therefore a crying need to revamp our education system to impart life skills to children from the age of 12 to 16 in secondary school years, so that in these formative teenage years they learn how to use their hands and mind nurturing craftsmanship and building things that allow them to build bigger and better things later on in life as they attain working age. Only in that way can we become a Germany or Japan renowned world over for automobile manufacturing or a Korea now leading consumer electronics.

Industry and commercial business houses have a varying degree experience of project management, some being excellent but the majority being fair. The one skill common to Indian minds is the ability to spot an economic incentive. The target therefore lies in evolving a suitable ensure payback mechanism for commercial enterprises to persuade them to support investment in skilling India. The European Union offers a good model to investigate how the governance mechanism is able to sustain and drive progressively enhancing standards in multiple areas of technology development and roll out, such as automobile manufacturing, public transportation systems such as TGV of France, ICE of Germany or TALGO of Spain, Electronic Connectivity such as clearly laid out paths for 5G networks and above all an Intellectual Property protection system for all such activities. The point I want to make is that in all these spheres there is a successful model of legislation, economic incentive, apprentice training  that functions to sustains and carry forward world class standards worthy of emulation the world over.

 

A few examples where India needs to seek commercial participation for capacity building are the following:

 

  • Do It Yourself (DIY) designs for non-conventional (Solar, Wind & bio) power-generation;
    • Development of Solar Power Technology Incubator.
    • Development of Wind Power Technology Incubator.
    • Development of Bio-Gas Technology Incubator.
  • Building-brick laying, joining, plumbing/Welding, Machining, Electrical and Electronics Skills Incubator.
  • Road Building and Rail Track Laying and electronic control systems to pace traffic.
  • Canal, Reservoir and Irrigation Building.
  • Scientific afforestation.
  • Garbage Processing.
  • Town/Housing Estate Management

 

In the economic Sector, full convertibility of Indian Currency will enable the following-

  • Facilitate International Trading
  • Promote Foreign Direct Investment
  • Promote consumption
  • Promote economic area jobs such as exchange houses

There however needs to be adequate safeguard to prevent flight of capital which is a risk associated with full convertibility. The objective of this skill generation almost at a war footing will enable youth to learn employable skills and application of these for both private and public enterprise.

Excellence in Farming sector:

Under-employment, unemployment, subsistence agriculture, crop failures, chronic indebtedness, lack of cash flow are some of the chronic problems that plague Indian farmers. Looking at the state of the farm sector since 2014 in the perspective of the current spate of farmer agitations that have gripped the country, a regional newspaper, The Telegraph has posited that 2016’s record agricultural produce came on the heels of 2 years of drought and crop failures. While this should have brought cheer, demonetisation apparently caused traders and middlemen to offer very low prices to farmers resulting in price collapse to below cost of production. If this is true, it highlights that we have a poor system of agricultural procurement, that needs to be addressed.

Agricultural Produce Procurement – There needs to be system of yearly (or half yearly) price notification of all farm produce in a State, and if farmers have sold it for less to a trader, then needs to be compensated in the form of a credit based on quantity and price differential. Note that this system through cross referencing will also track trader’s procurement price for taxation purpose.

Agricultural Produce Storage- Urgent provision needs to be made of Agri-produce storage, and it should be mandated to the local engineering universities in the state to come up with a standardized affordable storage design, and also project manage manufacturing and delivery of this to the local district collectors in the state. Besides improving capability in the universities, this should lead to manufacturing boost.

Agricultural Produce Processing- Again, mandating local engineering universities in the state to come up with a standardized affordable storage design, and also project manage agro-processing facility installation. To manage the demand side, enabling urban supermarket chains to get tax credits when they buy the produce, should also give filip to complement such initiatives.

Organic farming- The joy of organic farming is the intensive nature of the activity (generating employment) accompanied by application of technology such as green houses, which leads hopefully to more remunerative prices.

Farm sector Engineering- The primary purpose of this is to increase skill levels of the population and provide local employment opportunities to the rural youth in farm equipment maintenance, irrigation and farm sector mechanization.

Legislation for Enhancement

Amongst the various ills that plague our country and society the acute lack of employment that promises a reasonable wage is one, quite high up the scale. Unemployment, under-employment, exploitation, resultant schism in society etc are all linked and can be considered consequential. Truly amongst a population as large as ours, finding a reasonable source of income will always be a challenge, for anyone, and particularly so for the poorly educated. What I observe in the west is that, payment of a statutory minimum wage is obligatory and very strictly enforced. An idea which I feel if correctly implemented can transform the lives of the poor significantly.

 

One of the largest types of employment in India in unorganised sector is domestic employment. If the minimum wages are made enforce-able and also wide publicity is given in electronic media it would have overall and knock-on positive ramifications, on a host of issues and ills. Payment of minimum wages for all and any kind of employment is already law. What is necessary is to make registration of every type of employment, even domestic, mandatory so that people are legally obligated to pay the minimum statutory wage. Not only will the resulting consciousness immediately benefit millions of domestic workers in urban India, but will have an electrifying impact of all forms of un-organized labour. Not only will it have a cascading impact on health, children education etc for the poor but will also alleviate the disenchantment with the state and the extreme sense of hopelessness which propel some people to extremism and Naxalism.

Summary:

In summary, a developed state is one in which the dignity of citizens not only resides in the Constitution a holy book crafted by great Babasaheb Ambedkar for which India can be justifiably proud of, but one which takes active measures to ensure that children grow up well trained and well resourced to lead a life accruing respect in life, whether they hail from the rural masses or are of an urban background. We have the intellectual aptitude for this, but we need to develop the social skills of collaboration and sacrifice to propel India ever upwards.

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