‘Skill India Didn't See My Skills’

Raju Yadav, 26, picked up the skills of an electrician while working in an electric repair shop. However, Skill India centres refused to lend him certification because he did not know how to write and take notes 

I am an electrician. I can fix any wiring fault and even install solar panels. I have been doing this for the past five years. But I don’t have a degree or a certificate, I have learnt my skills through experience and no formal training. I have been pursuing a Skill India centre for getting a certificate, but in vain. 

I have been denied a certificate because my poor reading and writing skills. This is gross injustice with people like us. I learnt about Skill India Centres through a friend, who got a certification. He is now a certified electrician, but I am not. How does it matter whether I am able to write notes or not? 

The only thing that matters are my skills. And I have worked very hard to acquire them. When I first came to Delhi with my family from Uttar Pradesh, I could only find work as a daily wage labourer. I struggled to make money, as even after a day’s hard work, the money wasn’t enough to survive in Delhi. 

One day, I got an opportunity to work as a labourer at an electrification site. I stuck to that project for over a year till it was completed. Gradually after two-three years of work as an assistant to electricians, I got my first project on my own and completed it successfully. Now I am a full-fledged electrician, I just need a certification to get more jobs. 

To get a certification I need to learn to write properly. I quit studying after primary school, so writing is something that I could never perfect. With a little help I can probably learn to write too.

There are many people like me, who have learnt a vocation, on the job. It just shows that we are good learners and we don’t really need to take notes. But our fate still hangs in balance. People who have similar skills, and are able to take notes, are now certified by the government. 

I want the authorities to understand that we are equally skilled. I have spent years in perfecting my skills as an electrician. But I can only get a contract through my sources and references as I don’t have any certificate. 

Even if the government gives me a certificate of assistant or trainee electrician, it will be of great help for me. I will prove myself and will return to the centre after studying enough to get proper certification. This will help me build a career and take care of a family. 

There are thousands like me who are in dire need of certification for their skills. The government must do something for us for the sake of equal opportunity.

19 Lakh Excluded From Assam Final NRC

The final list of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was published on Saturday excluding over 19 lakh people. Over three crore people were found eligible for the inclusion, Prateek Hajela, the NRC coordinator, said.

“A total of 3,11,21,004 persons are found eligible for inclusion in final NRC leaving out 19,06,657 persons, including those who did not submit their claims,” Hajela, said.

He, however, asserted that those who are not satisfied with the outcome of the claims can appeal before the Foreigners Tribunals.

The status of both inclusion and exclusion of the people from the list can be viewed online on the NRC website, www.nrcassam.nic.in.

The hard copies of the supplementary list of inclusions will be available for public view at NRC Seva Kendras (NSK), offices of the Deputy Commissioner and offices of the Circle Officer.

The list has segregated Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the state from Bangladesh after 1971.

The process of receipt of NRC application forms had started during the end of May in 2015 and ended on August 31 in 2015. A total of 3,30,27,661 members had applied through 68,37,660 applications.

Following this, the applications submitted by the people were taken up for scrutiny to determine the eligibility of their inclusion in the NRC.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had earlier clarified that non-inclusion of a person’s name in the NRC will not amount to his or her being declared a “foreigner”.

Those who will be excluded from the list will get an opportunity to file an appeal within 120 days in the Foreigners’ Tribunal (FT), as per the direction given by the Union Home Ministry, said Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.

NRC is a register containing names of Indian citizens, which was prepared for the only time in 1951. It is being updated for Assam as of now to weed out illegal immigrants.

The first list of NRC was first published in Assam in 1951. When the draft NRC was published on July 30, 2018, there was a huge controversy over the exclusion of 40.7 lakh people from it. (ANI)


No Job Loss After Banks Merger: Govt

The merger of 10 public sector banks (PSBs) to form four big lenders will create more jobs and not lead to any retrenchment as being claimed by some trade unions, Finance Secretary Rajiv Kumar has said.

“When the size of a bank becomes big, then its business will also grow, resulting in more job creation. There is no question of retrenchment,” he told ANI in an exclusive interview.

“Look at the past example of mergers with State Bank of India. See the example of three banks merging with Bank of Baroda. There was no retrenchment. This is an issue of providing better facilities to bank employees,” said Kumar.

The merger of PSBs is imperative for India to become a five trillion dollar economy in the next five years. “You have to adopt a banking system which is clean and impactful. In 2017, there were 27 PSBs. Now we have only 12.”

Kumar said there will be three types of banks in future: PSBs with a strong national presence and global reach, PSBs with a national presence and PSBs with a regional presence. After the merger, PSBs can do investments, cut expenditure and increase facilities for customers. The merger will benefit customers in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, he added.

Kumar said the merger will benefits employees working in small banks. Besides, they will have more opportunities for transfers. For example, the merger of Indian Bank and Allahabad Bank will give opportunities to employees to move from North to South, or the other way round.

Pak Ready For Conditional Dialogue

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said that Pakistan is ready for a “conditional dialogue” with India, reported a foreign News Agency. This contradicts Prime Minister Imran Khan’s stand on bilateral talks.

The report comes after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that India is willing to discuss outstanding issues with Pakistan bilaterally in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.

Pakistan is upset with the Indian government’s move to strip the special status accorded to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and has found itself completely isolated despite desperate attempts aimed at internationalising the issue.

However, Islamabad has been snubbed on all fronts as the international community has made it clear that the Kashmir issue is strictly New Delhi’s internal matter.

Pakistan has approached various world leaders to seek their interventions into the issue. However, Pakistan has been told to engage bilaterally with India to end tensions.

India has repeatedly made it clear that talks with Pakistan are only possible after Islamabad stops sponsoring terror. (ANI)


Citizen Register – Is India Going The Myanmar Way?

As final Assam National Register of Citizens is released, leaving 1.9 million people stateless and homeless, a massive humanitarian tragedy is likely to confront the state

A time bomb is ticking in Assam as the state braces to cope with the fall-out from the final publication of the National Registrar of Citizens released on August 31. A massive humanitarian tragedy may confront the state as roughly 1.9 million people are likely to become stateless and homeless. The figure is from the final NRC which was released on August 31.

Is India now going the Myanmar way? The Muslim Rohingyas are stateless with no rights. Time and again they are attacked and have no access to either government health care or any other facilities provided for ordinary citizens. The plight of the Rohingya refugees have caught the imagination of the world. India risks the same outrage from the international community, unless it has thought through what it aims to do. Kashmir is already in focus. Add the plight of four million stateless people and Delhi will have a major human rights problem in hand. Will the rest of the world be as accommodating as they have been so far with Kashmir?

Neither the Centre nor the Assam government have given a clue of what they intend to do with this mass of people whose lives are being torn apart. It has been a haphazard exercise ridden with mistakes. That could be overlooked considering the huge numbers. Yet as people are at the centre of the NRC, mistakes take a deadly toll on individuals and families. There are several instances reported of the grandparents considered as Indian citizens while the sons and daughters are blacklisted as foreigners. Much depends on the official behind the desk who has enormous powers over these hapless individuals. Time and again the BJP government, both at the Centre and the state have assured people that they have the  right to appeal and that not a single genuine citizen need worry. But assurances on paper and what happens on the ground are two different things.

 Where will these people be kept? At the moment Assam has six detention camps that operate out of make-shift facilities in local prisons in Goal Para, Dibrugarh, Silcher, Tezpur, Jorhat and Kokrajhar. According to reports 10 more are going to be built. But when? And what happens to them after Saturday? According to reports in the local newspapers, Assam’s first stand-alone detention centre is being constructed in the border district of Goalpara, which will be able to keep 3,000 people. But that is a drop in the ocean considering the numbers.

 As most of the stateless are allegedly from neighbouring Bangladesh, has Dhaka been consulted? Has Sheikh Hasina’s government agreed to take back at least some of these detainees? Nobody knows. Delhi is keeping its cards close to its chest. When foreign minister S Jaishankar was in Dhaka earlier this month and asked at a news conference about the NRC, he said it was India’s internal problem and he would not answer any questions on the process.

In the past Bangladesh had said that they would take back those people who had relevant papers to show they were from that country. A majority of the stateless are poor, illiterate peasants who have no papers to prove their identity. India has excellent relations with Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League government. Delhi is unlikely to do anything to upset that equation.

But what will the government do with the four million alleged foreigners. For one it is impossible to keep them under detention indefinitely. People of Assam are happy that finally foreign nationals have been identified. They have long struggled for this. The student’s agitation in the late 70s was all about protecting the identity of the local Assamese. The 1985 Assam Accord had promised to identify foreigners and deport them. Not much had happened however. The fear of being reduced to a minority in their own homes is something that has haunted the Assamese for decades. The fear was that Assam would be the second Muslim majority state after Kashmir. Ironically with the abrogation of article 370 and 35 A of the constitution, which forbids “outsiders’’ from other Indian states from buying land in the state is now no longer applicable. Kashmiris worry that in a couple of decades, the state will no longer have a Muslim majority.  Ironically in Assam the government is proposing to ensure that the Assamese majority keep their status intact.   

The only way out to deal with the alleged foreigners is to allow people to remain but ensure that they have no voting rights. This will assuage the Assamese that illegal voters will not have a say in the elections. There is concern in the local BJP unit in Assam that as much as 40 percent of the foreigners identified are Hindu Bengalis from former East Pakistan and current Bangladesh. The Amendment to the Citizenship Act was brought in with these people in mind. The amendment allows for all Hindu refugees to seek Indian citizenship. There have been demonstrations by local units of the BJP in Assam that Hindus should not be humiliated in this fashion. The government will find a way out for the Hindu Bengalis, considering that the BJP has already got the Citizenship Amendment ready to take care of that contingency. 

Can the rest of the people, identified as foreigners continue to live and operate out of Assam? A stateless population will be exposed to all kinds of atrocities, as Myanmar has proved. The BJP seems to be playing with fire, considering there is talk of having NRC across India. That would be disastrous and light the fires of social tension across the country. Will any government in its right mind push this self-destruct button?


27 PSU Banks To Be Merged Into 12

The government on Friday announced the merger of Punjab National Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India to create the second-largest banking network in the country with 11,431 branches.

“Punjab National Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank will be brought together and they shall form the second largest public sector bank with the business of Rs 17.95 Lakh crore,” Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a press conference in New Delhi.

She said after the mega PSU bank consolidation drive, there will be 12 public sector banks in the system, as against 27 in 2017. The Finance Minister said the creation of next-generation banks was imperative for India to become a US dollar 5 trillion economy in the next five years.

She said that the NPAs of banks have come down due to the measures taken by the government to strengthen the financial sector.

“The NPAs have come down from Rs 8.65 lakh crore in December 2018 to Rs 7.90 lakh crore now,” she said. (ANI)


Chidambaram To Be In Custody Till Sept 2

A special court on Friday extended Congress leader P Chidambaram’s CBI remand for three days in connection with the INX media case. He will now remain in custody till September 2.

The Supreme Court will hear his petition challenging the trial court’s order to remand him to CBI’s custody on September 2.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K M Natrajan told the court that Chidambaram was being questioned for eight to ten hours every day.

Chidambaram’s lawyer Dayan Krishnan said that the former minister had serious issues with the “nature of the investigation”.

“They have not put any document relating to shell companies and other relevant things before him so far,” he told the court.

Krishnan also said that Chidambaram was shown three files for 20 times and no document on money trail was put forth before him during the questioning.

The senior Congress leader is in the CBI custody since his arrest on August 21 and his custody was to expire today.

The former Union Minister is facing probe in cases registered by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) pertaining to the case.

The ED is also seeking his custodial interrogation related to money laundering allegations. The Supreme Court, however, has granted him interim protection from arrest by the ED till September 5.

In 2017, the CBI had registered an FIR alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance was given to INX Media to the tune of Rs 305 crore in 2007 when Chidambaram was the Union finance minister. (ANI)

Wagah Border Ceremony

Imran Raises Nuclear War Bogey, Again

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan yet again ratcheted up the nuclear bogey when he warned of a possible military confrontation between the two nuclear-armed neighbours in the wake of Indian government’s decisions in Jammu and Kashmir.

“If the world does nothing to stop the Indian assault on Kashmir and its people, two nuclear-armed states will get ever closer to a direct military confrontation,” he wrote in op-ed piece in the The New York Times published today.

Khan wrote that all his efforts to start a dialogue for peace were “rebuffed” by India.

“On July 26, 2018, in my first televised address to Pakistan after winning the elections, I stated we wanted peace with India and if it took one step forward, we would take two steps. After that, a meeting between our two foreign ministers was arranged on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in September 2018, but India cancelled the meeting,” Khan said.

The meeting, which was scheduled to take place between former EAM Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in New York, was called off by India hours after security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir were kidnapped and brutally killed.

He also talked about the February 14 Pulwama terror attack, the responsibility for which was taken by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

“The Indian government promptly blamed Pakistan. We asked for evidence, but Mr Modi sent Indian Air Force fighter planes across the border to Pakistan,” the Pak PM said.

“Evidently Mr. Modi had mistaken our desire for peace in a nuclear neighbourhood as appeasement. We were not simply up against a hostile government. We were up against a “New India,” which is governed by leaders and a party that are the products of the Hindu supremacist mother ship, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or the R.S.S,” Khan stated.

He objected to India’s abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution, which had accorded a special status to Jammu & Kashmir.

“The move is illegal under the Constitution of India, but more importantly, it is a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Kashmir and the Shimla Agreement between India and Pakistan,” he claimed.

India has dismissed all such claims and maintained that its latest decision in J&K is a matter of its internal affairs. (ANI)


Khadi Inc Bucks Slowdown, Creates Jobs & Wealth

Like it or not, Modi has lent glamour to the khadi fabric and contributed to its popularity and profitability. This is evident from the Khadi Commission’s balance sheets in the last five years

Amidst India’s current economic slowdown — from aviation to biscuits to cars – the ‘desi’, or the native, is defying the depressing trend. 

Rooted in soil and traditions, khadi or khaddar, the hand-spun, hand-woven fabric and an array of home-made products of daily use in drawing room, kitchen and toilet are selling better than the branded domestic and multinational stuff.

This is no mere patriotic song; it means jobs and money. And it’s voluntary and now, market-driven.

The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) ought to be on the national and global bourses except that it is a statutory government corporation established by an Act of parliament.

After long years of neglect and charges of bad performance despite being heavily subsidized, it has entered the profit trajectory.

Its annual turnover of Rs 75,000 crore in 2018-19 is more than double of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL). India’s largest corporate manufacturer/marketer, the British-Dutch MNC accounted for Rs 38,000 crores in that year.

KVIC’s growth has been phenomenal in the last five years. From relatively low Rs 33,000 crores during 2014-15, it jumped to Rs 50,000 crores two years later, growing at 25 percent annually. Buoyed by the latest performance chart, the target for 2019-20 is 20 percent higher, at Rs 80,000 crores.

Proportionately, others do make greater profits. But KVIC, more than just a corporate success story, should be viewed for depth and extent to which half-a-million people work for it directly, making it one of the largest employers. And indirectly, another 15 million collaborators are spread across individual homes and farms and small and medium manufacturing units.

This defies the current phase of growth without producing jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector.  

This is the India that has grown over a century since M K Gandhi launched khadi or khaddar in 1918. Before he involved the masses in the fight for political freedom, this was his first mass-based venture bringing the rural India under the spell of productive self-reliance that meant work and gave a sense of dignity. Thus, khadi was not mere a piece of cloth but became a way of life.

It’s an unlikely story that explains why and how India sustains despite poverty and vagaries of nature.

Gandhi started spinning himself and encouraged others. He made it obligatory for all members of the Indian National Congress, then in fore-front of the freedom movement against the British, to spin cotton themselves and to pay their dues in yarn.

He collected large sums, including from industrialists and thus involving them directly, to create a grass-roots network to encourage handloom weaving. Ironically, handloom thrives today even as many textile mills have closed.

Charkha (spinning wheel) was the symbol of Gandhi-led movement. It became part of the Congress flag, eventually to be replaced by the Ashok Chakra in the national tricolor.

Tragically, people in the present century need to be reminded of all this. The political class has discarded khadi. Economic reforms have pushed urban India away from this cost-effective, climate-friendly fabric.

The other reminder is to people discarding khadi. The white cap that carried Gandhi’s tag is fast disappearing with the ebbing of the Congress party and its political culture.

It began early: Babu Jagjivan Ram who swore-in 400 Congress winners in 1984 Lok Sabha polls lamented before senior journalist Vijay Sanghvi that leave alone Gandhi cap, none was even clad in khadi. Today, the party has moved farther way from the common man it once represented.

This has naturally opened space for political appropriation and re-branding by the present dispensation that was not part of the Gandhi-led movement.  Last century’s “Nehru jacket” is now popularized and marketed as “Modi jacket”. The current premier patronizes khadi in its multiple hues and textures. He has also clothed several world leaders in khadi.

Modi has lent glamour to the fabric and contributed to its popularity and profitability. This is evident from the KVIC’s balance sheets in the last five years. The sale of khadi products has reached USD 1.56 billion in the last five years.        

Modern textile technology has helped immensely in softening khadi’s cotton yarn and its bleaching and blending. KVIC is collaborating with top textile brands Arvind for denim and with Raymond.

Helped by fashion designers, khadi helps the elite make fashion statement if only to help them to “rise above” the class that chases the easy-to-maintain global brands or their local imitations which are mass-manufactured and hence relatively cheaper.

It has gone digital. A pair of trendy Western wear is available for a modest Rs 2,000. The high range could be a few hundred rupees for a meter of fabric. 

The challenge lies in marketing. Leaving out main markets in major cities where it is given peppy look, Khadi Bhandars across India wear traditional, desolate look.

Yet, marketing of khadi and other products, even their exports, remains a unique example of public-private participation (PPP). Private entities buy from KVIC-affiliated and state government-run cooperatives. Encouraged, KVIC is looking for export markets after a survey in 21 overseas markets showed that khadi was the most recalled Indian brand, along with yoga. Its success could build on India’s ‘soft’ diplomacy.   

Having credited khadi for generating the overall ‘desi’ revolution, it must now be conceded that the fabric that sold for Rs 2,005 crores forms only 4.3 percent of the total KVIC turnover. Fuller credit is due to numerous items like papad, soaps and shampoos, herbal medicines and cosmetics, honey, handicraft material, brassware, vegetable oils and organic grains and pulses.

They are produced by nameless housewives, rural artisans including cooks, potters and painters and small entrepreneurs in both public and private sectors. They make and market goods with or without the KVIC supervision and umbrella and form a unique network that probably exists nowhere else. 

Industry experts attribute the organisation’s success to many domestic and international fashion designers preferring to work with sustainable and natural fabrics. There is also a buzz among millennial shoppers, who care about whether the clothes they wear or the products they use create jobs. Since khadi cloth is handspun and its products are mainly created by artisans in rural areas, the brand invokes good vibes in consumers.

In the last five years, the KVIC has promoted new schemes under Prime Minister Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) that have created 2.17 million new jobs. They include Honey Mission and Kumhaar Sashaktikaran Yojana (for potters’ empowerment). This includes distributing bee boxes and electric chaaks or potter wheels in the troubled Kashmir Valley and in Ladakh.  

Such a massive exercise cannot be a top-down process from capital cities without involvement of the makers-cum-beneficiaries. There is need for debate. For instance, where does one draw a line between preserving cultural heritage and industrial/commercial pursuit?

Handloom, for one, should be revived as a skilled occupation that offers livelihood with dignity for both the weaver and the physical environment around, says B. Syama Sundari, coordinator, policy research and advocacy at Dastkar Andhra, an organisation that   promotes handloom weaving as a viable rural livelihood. 

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com


Self-Defence Skill

‘Self-Defence Skill India Course Ensures A Job’

A Black Belt in Korean martial art Taekwondo, Anjil Dixit Sharma is one of the first women to get a certification in self-defence course under the Skill India initiative. Sharma feels confident of securing herself a gainful employment.

I am a black belt in Taekwondo, a martial arts form that originated in Korea. I have participated in many national level competitions and earned gold medals as well. I have spent years practising the technique and these skills were the most obvious choice of career for me. However, opportunities are hard to come by. So when my mentor told me about a certified instructor course programme in self-defence under Skill India initiative in Noida, I grabbed the opportunity and went to the office of Strike Self-Defence to check out what was happening. 

A government certification for instructors is like golden recommendation in one’s resume. I immediately enrolled for the course and successfully completed it in six days. Usually, a Karate or Taekwondo teacher is hired by the schools as a self-defence instructor and this certification course has increased my chances of getting a good job. 

I learned real life situations under the training, which changed the perspective of self-defence for me. Taekwondo laid a foundation of self-defence instructor in my life and this training has catapulted it further.

Unlike the oriental traditional martial arts, this self-defence programme in based on real life situations, real life threats, which include weapons, such as, knives, pistols, sticks and others. I was amazed to see how the level of training has changed. The programme is inspired by Israeli technique of Krav Maga and the first batch of instructors were trained with dummy knives, guns and sticks. 

Now I can confidently thwart any attack by knife, stick or firearm. The training is very scientific. The instructors told us practical solutions, like not to engage with a person, who has a gun. The first option is to flee. 

The regime is wonderful in terms of women’s safety, which is the need of the hour. After the course, I have become more confident and can now train people with a more scientific approach. This programme doesn’t require any costumes, demos for breaking ice and bricks, or bending iron rods, which are some of the many demonstrations common in oriental martial arts. These demos can cause injury. The training is focused on maximum utilization of force with minimal effort. One needs to train there to understand how the field of self-defence is being revolutionised.

I come from a middle class family so a sound source of income is important to us. I am confident that my future is secure after enrolling for this course.  With this experience, I can be a helping pillar not only for my family but for the women of the country, who are in desperate need of a self-defence training like this.