“Students should be trained with the solution-based approach” – Dr. Rajan Tungare

Dr. Rajan Tungare, Director – Late Narayan Meghji Lokhande Maharashtra Institute of Labour Studies, Parel, tells Shraddha Kamdar in an interview on practical training for students

As elegant as he is understanding, he allowed me to start the meeting a little later than decided since I was stuck in traffic. He also mentioned that in a city like Mumbai which moves so fast, one has to understand traffic-related problems. Over a cup of coffee, Dr. Rajan Tungare, Director – Late Narayan Meghji Lokhande Maharashtra Institute of Labour Studies (LNMLMILS), Parel, then patiently answered all my questions, explaining the role of the institution with respect to the labour industry and the training that the students undergo for it. He offers the history of the institute, the basis on which it was set up, the various milestones and the programmes it offers.

“Today, the institute is unique, because it is not purely a management institute, it is a labour management institute. It’s unique feature lies in the fact that it offers the students both the perspectives – that of the labour as well as that of the management. Our students are equally comfortable in interacting with the management of an organisation as they are with discussing the problems of the labour with the trade unions,” Dr. Tungare explains.

Dr. Tungare mentions that because LNMLMILS has been running this unique programme since July 1947 (yes, the institute was established a month before independence) it has provided trained man power to sectors like industrial relations, labour administration and labour welfare among others for several decades. These trained officers have been able to help maintain harmonious industrial relations in the state of Maharashtra which has led to industrial growth and development.

The admission to the institute’s flagships course – the two-year full-time Master’s in Labour Studies affiliated to the University of Mumbai, is through a written test, followed by a group discussion and a panel interview. Dr. Tungare says that the differentiator is that the institute looks into the aptitude of the applicant. They look for managerial aptitude in industrial relations and human resources. “We also test leadership traits that are displayed by the candidate during the interview. They are asked whether they know the labour societies and the problems related to the industry. We look for emotional intelligence as well, which is absolutely essential for managerial success in this field,” he elaborates.

Further to the qualities that the students might already possess, they are trained through a mix of practical and theory approaches. Dr. Tungare mentions that having students come from all walks of life to the institute helps, since students learn a lot from each other. “We have representation from almost all statutory universities in Maharashtra, where someone would be from a regional background another from a city. In the end, the students emerge as a cohesive group, thanks to the field work component,” Dr. Tungare says. He adds that over 50% of the curriculum comprises field work, and this exposure to the world helps to mould the students well. For instance, even if for concurrent placement a student goes has part of the personnel or HR department in an organisation, along with systematically understanding the organisation, he invariably ends up doing some group activity or the other. This could be an awareness drive or a blood donation camp or something else, but it helps students work as a group.

“We have placed students in trade unions also where they have understood issues at the base level, and they have interacted with some of the high-ranked officials working in the field and learnt from them. They know both sides with confidence,” Dr. Tungare remarks. He adds that the solution-based approach works really well for his students, where then they are assessed continuously, so they do not really have to run behind scoring high marks. According to him, students need strong conceptual rigour, and they need to work out issues at the ground level. He talks of a ex-student who was placed in an organisation in the chemical industry for an internship, but the officials were wary of offering it since the atmosphere at the plant was hostile and the workers were on strike. “I told the officials to in fact give the topic to the student to research for his project, even though they were sceptical. The student went ahead and successfully analysed the problem and presented a transparent and blunt report to the officials. He showed the top management where they lacked and the management not only accepted its flaws, but also offered him a job. Basically, students need to learn from confronting the problem. That makes them more pragmatic so they can deliver the results.”

Dr. Tungare then narrates another instance where a student was placed in IT-enabled service organisation with a strained industrial relations situation. The striking employees turned off the electricity at the plant one morning. The newly employed student had been working there for six months and while the drama was going on, he asked the management for a chance to handle the situation. Reluctantly he was allowed, and first, he turned on the meter. After that he went on to talk to the disgruntled workers to understand the problem and help resolve it. Dr. Tungare says this solution-based approach works well, and that’s why at the end of the two-year programme, the students are ready for the industry.

“Over the last few years, we at the institute, have been focussing on the unorganised sector, since in the labour force about 94% is in the unorganised sector. We encourage students to go to the places where these workers function and study the problems and present to others, whether they are rag pickers or crop harvesters, every set of workers comes with a unique set of issues, which our students need to understand. It makes them more realistic to the changing perspectives of the Indian economy,” he explains.

Dr. Tungare says that the success of the students depends on all of these applications they are able to make within the field. That’s why, it is necessary to make them aware.

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