India is the youngest nation in the world with 60 percent of its population under 29, and 27 percent population in the age bracket of 15 to 29 years. This young Indian population, in a world where the demographics of most developed economies are increasingly contracting and greying, is the fuel that can propel and drive the world and India to a higher trajectory, in the coming decades, if nurtured properly. Alarmingly, the Periodic Labour Force Survey by MoSPI, GoI for the period 2018-19, reflects a significant increase in unemployment rates for the youth in the segment undergoing formal education as well.
Further, this problem of employment exacerbates for minority communities as there are extreme ends within the minorities communities alongside gender discrimination which identifies the need for women empowerment in these communities. These inter-communal disparities get further accentuated in times of economic distress and downturns, such as the present COVID-19 pandemic.
The Government of India with its vision of Atma Nirbhar Bharat and to provide demand-led job roles has been nimble on its feet and has shown increasing interest in the skilling ecosystem to deal with this growing challenge. The government launched the Skill India campaign which includes an array of initiatives under its purview to bridge the gap between lack of skill training and joblessness. Currently, over 70 skill development schemes across various sectors are being implemented by over 20 Central Ministries/Depts by utilising their institutional expertise to enhance the efficacy of outreach.
The National Skill Policy envisages that skills and knowledge are the driving forces for the economic growth of any country. The ecosystem for skill development nurtured by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has duly assisted the catapulting of skill training imperatives of the Government. Some of the successful programs with a focus on categories as mentioned above are Entrepreneurship Development Programmes (Ministry of MSME), Rural Self Employment and Training Scheme -RSETI (Ministry of Rural Development), Hunar Se Rozgar Tak under CBSP scheme (Ministry of Tourism) and scheme of Youth Employability Skill (YES) Training (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports) among others.
Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) is implementing 4 skilling schemes named Seekho aur Kamao (SAK), USTAAD, Nai Manzil and MAEF based Skilling initiatives, with SAK as the main scheme to reach out to the minorities and reduce vulnerabilities of the marginalised population by imparting modern employable skills and facilitate the youth in securing better livelihoods. There is a sound justification for implementing skilling schemes through MoMA as distinct from the general skilling schemes. The data attributes and socio-economic peculiarities of the beneficiaries amongst the minority youth requires a specialised ecosystem, duly supported and nurtured by MoMA.
Initiatives to bolster skilling ecosystem of Minority Communities
The Government of India through MoMA has over the years broadened its scope and mandate to best address the specific needs of its beneficiaries. Even with new challenges such as those posed by the COVID pandemic, the Government has maintained its resolute intent to safeguard the communities most in need and ensure equitable growth, taking one and all along. The Government has sought to concomitantly repurpose and reinvigorate its skill mission to ensure support that is digitally accessible and priority sensitive thereby supporting ‘Ease of Business’ and ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’ and provide succour to those in need of it the most in the times of pandemic.
a) Focussed mobilization strategies to build awareness among minority communities: The evaluation survey conducted by MoMA highlighted the issues peculiar to the mobilisation of minority youth. Therefore, specialised interventions including onboarding of community- based organization at block level that can liaise with, build capacities and provide support to community influencers for spreading awareness among candidates will provide impetus to the existing mobilisation initiatives.
b) Specialised programmes for minorities based on identified priority areas: Given the complex construct of religious minorities in a large country like ours requires learning, re-learning and even unlearning on part of implementors. What works for one group does not necessarily work for the others and thus demands specialisation and vigour on part of the Government to cater to the need of the most- minorities and socio-economically weaker communities. The first step for need assessment of minority communities requires conducting a baseline survey by contacting marginalized social groups like students from the BPL category, in order to identify trigger areas and design focussed initiatives alongside bolstering existing skilling initiatives by MoMA.
(CPS Bakshi is IRS and Joint Secretary to the Govt of India. The views expressed are personal in nature and do not reflect the official views of the Government.)