6th APRIL 2018
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
Q1. Discuss the various issues being faced by the Skill India Programme and suggest various measures to extract full benefit of the scheme.
- Salvaging the Indian demographic dividend must be a key part of India’s growth story. In 2016, the Government of India formed the Sharada Prasad Committee to rationalise the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs), which are employer bodies mostly promoted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and other industry associations, and improve ‘Skill India’. The committee submitted its report in 2016. Now over a year later, it may be prudent to look at the reforms it suggested and action taken in the vocational education/training (VET) system.
- Private vocational training providers (VTPs) that mushroomed as private industrial training institutes (ITIs) and National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC)-financed short-term training providers are no substitute for industry-employer engagement with each pillar of the VET ecosystem: secondary schools; ITIs, public and private; NSDC-funded VTPs; ministries that train, and firms that conduct enterprise-based training
- Short duration courses (with no real skills) that provide low pay for suboptimal jobs cannot be called national standards. Hence the current national standards have to drastically improve.
- This means that we should have no more than 450 courses — Germany has only 340 courses — in accordance with the National Classification of Occupations 2015 (which itself was based on the International Standard Classification of Occupations). Such trainees will be a national asset.What we have instead are nearly 10,000 standards, produced mostly by consultants. There cannot be thousands of standards (compressed into 2,000 qualification packs/job roles), and “delivered” to trainees in a matter of a few months. This is not what the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) had recommended. The focus should be in strengthening reading, writing and arithmetic skills. No skill development can succeed if most of the workforce lacks the foundation to pick up skills in a fast-changing world. Vocational training must by definition be for a minimum of a year, which includes internship (without which certification is not possible). Short-term training should be confined to recognising prior learning of informally trained workers who are already working.
- There is a huge ethics and accountability issue if there is no credible assessment board and when there are too many sector skill councils, each trying to maximise their business. TheSharada Prasad Committee had recommended that the number of SSCs should correspond to the National Industrial (Activity) Classification (which has 21 economic activities across the entire economy), but which is still way larger than Australia’s six. Little has happened except for the number of SSCs dropping from 40 to 39.
- The first policy step should be towards a unification of the entire VET system. What we have today are fragmented pillars. Each of the five pillars does what it wants to, with no synergy. An NSDC-centric focus has left the skill development efforts of 17 ministries out of the same scrutiny. ‘Skill India’ can have an impact only when all of them work together and learn from each other. SSCs, which are supposedly industry representatives, should be engaging themselves with each pillar of the system, and not just NSDC-funded VTPs.
- The second step is to enhance employer ownership, responsibility and their ‘skin in the game’. Media reports often highlight the corporate sector lamenting about “unemployable youth”. The private sector places the onus on the government, treating it as a welfare responsibility, while the government looks to the private sector since it is the end consumer of skills. The result is that only 36% of India’s organised sector firms conduct in-firm training (mostly large ones, which are also the only ones that take on apprentices under a Government of India Act).
- The third policy step is in getting the government to recognise that decades have been spent in building a government-financed and managed, and hence supply-driven system.
Q2. Discuss the various pros and cons of the recent judgment of the Supreme Court on the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
- The apex court has given a direction to thoroughly verify the facts of the complaint before registering the FIR of the complainant. The government has also informed the court that it does not intend to make any amendments to the Atrocities Act. Despite the submission, we witnessed a nationwide protest. Properties worth crores of rupees were damaged and people lost their lives.
- As for figures, chargesheets are filed in 77% of the cases filed. Following discussions in Parliament, in 2014, about 40,000 cases were registered under the Act; in 2015, there was a slight drop; and in 2016, the figures were similar to the 2014 figures. There was a need for the court to step in so that unwarranted cases are not registered and innocent people are not implicated.
- The reasons behind the low conviction, which is 15%, is because cases are registered without proper investigation and a simple accusation leads to an FIR which does not stand scrutiny in a court of law. This exercise is a way to harass people and is a complete waste of time — of both the police and the court.
- Also, one will find that in the figures provided by the government, more cases under the Act are filed in rural areas as opposed to urban areas where caste identities are blurred. It is easier to falsely implicate people in rural areas. Every time there is a fight or a dispute in rural pockets, it is given a caste angle and someone or the other gets implicated under the Atrocities Act. Just as a few false rape cases are registered to harass or settle scores under Section 376 of the IPC, it is not uncommon to find the Atrocities Act being similarly misused.
- The judgment effectively neutralises the Act which provided some sense of protection to hapless people against oppressive societal prejudices. The reluctance of the ruling establishment in implementing the “Act with teeth” is evident from the fact that its implementation came in 1995, after a delay of six years.
- The misuse of any law (including this one) can be attempted only by resourceful people. What are the chances of a poor Dalit landless labourer taking recourse to this law? About 75% of the population, especially women and the marginalised, avoid reporting a crime as they feel frustrated and unhappy with the way cops behave with complainants. It is only following pressure from activists that complaints of atrocities get into the police register. Even after the registration of a complaint, it has to pass through prejudicial barriers — police investigation, the indulgence of the prosecution, and the judicial verdict. The acquittal of culprits has become the norm. There are studies, such as one by the Centre for Social Justice, Ahmedabad, which have exposed how cases of atrocities result in acquittal due to the anti-Dalit attitude of the law enforcement.
- The incidence of atrocities has persistently risen over the last two decades and hovers at an annual 50,000 cases today, implying that every hour six atrocities are being committed on Dalits in India. The conviction rate, however, was in single digits until recently. It is only after 2012, when this dismal reality was publicly decried that the government claimed the conviction rate was a little over 20%.
- It is a fact that in most cases the courts do not apply the Act saying that the crime was not committed because of the caste of the victim. In Khairlanji, among the most infamous caste crimes in history, the court declined to see a caste angle to the massacre. In 2002, in Jhajjhar where five Dalits were lynched by a mob, the Act was not applied on the ground that the accused did not know the caste of the victims.
- The judgment suffers from several infirmities. One, it violates the Constitution insofar as it rewrites the Act which is the preserve of Parliament. Two, the appellant could have been granted bail in the case and hence invoking Article 14 or 21 was uncalled for.
- Three, the prayer of the appellant was to quash the case against him and not the Act. The judges in generalising this particular case erred in their judgment. Four, to decide whether the case is true or false is for the judges to examine. How can the police or some official perform this judicial function?