This year’s budget also looks to be in line with the Modi government’s strong focus on creating jobs and encouraging skilling efforts, since it took over in May 2014.
India’s finance minister, Arun Jaitley, presented the country’s budget for the coming fiscal year in a presentation to the Parliament on 1 Feb, 2017. This year’s budget also looks to be in line with the Modi government’s strong focus on creating jobs and encouraging skilling efforts, since it took over in May 2014. Announcing his agenda for 2017-18, which is, ‘Transform, Energise and Clean India’—TEC India— the finance minister proposed various educational and skilling reforms and initiatives in his approximately two hour long speech.
Experts agree that reforms in education and skilling initiatives is the foundational step to ensuring more employment, as Jaitley also focussed on boosting entrepreneurship, which in turn, will bring more jobs in the coming times. A part of the budget focusses on energising youth through education, skills and jobs; and providing employment and basic infrastructure to the rural population.
Regarding reforms in higher education, Jaitley announced that good-quality higher education institutions will have greater administrative and academic autonomy now. In addition, he said, “We propose to leverage information technology and launch the SWAYAM platform, with at least 350 online courses. This would enable students to virtually attend the courses taught by the best faculty; access high-quality reading resources; participate in discussion forums; take tests and earn academic grades.”
Trying to get premier institutions, such as the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to concentrate more on the quality of academics, Jaitley announced that a National Testing Agency will be set up as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions.
Commenting on our demographic competitive advantage, Jaitley said, “We have a huge demographic advantage. Skill India mission was launched in July 2015 to maximise the potential of our youth.” In line with that, “Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras (PMKK) have already been promoted in more than 60 districts. We now propose to extend these Kendras to over 600 districts across the country. 100 India International Skills Centres will be established across the country,” he said.
These Centres will offer advanced training and courses in foreign languages, and hence, this initiative will really help the youth who seek job opportunities outside the country. Promising vocational skill building, the FM also proposed to launch the Skill Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion programme (SANKALP) at a cost of Rs 4,000 crores in 2017–18. SANKALP will provide market-relevant training to 3.5 crore youth.
In addition, as per the new budget plan, the next phase of Skill Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE) will also be launched in 2017–18 at a cost of Rs 2,200 crores. “STRIVE will focus on improving the quality and market relevance of vocational training provided in ITIs and strengthen the apprenticeship programmes through the industry cluster approach,” Jaitley said.
As the recent Economic Survey revealed that the apparels and footwear sectors have the most job creation potential, the new budget has allocated some attention to these sectors as well. Jaitley mentioned that a special scheme for creating employment in the textile sector has already been launched and a similar scheme will be implemented for the leather and footwear industries as well.
Talking of the other industry with significant job-creation potential, Jaitley said, “Tourism is a big employment generator and has a multiplier impact on the economy.” He announced that five Special Tourism Zones, anchored on SPVs, will be set up in partnership with the States, and the Incredible India 2.0 Campaign will be launched across the world.
Last but not the least, the budget also focussed on the upliftment of women in rural sections through the Mahila Shakti Kendra, which will be set up with an allocation of Rs 500 crores in 14 lakh ICDS Anganwadi Centres. This initiative will provide one-stop convergent support services to empower rural women with opportunities for skill development, employment, digital literacy, health and nutrition.
Looking at the schemes announced and the budget allocated to skilling and educational reforms, the year ahead seems strong on this front. However, only time will tell how the budget is utilised to get the best out of the schemes planned.