The prime minister's flagship projects, such as Make in India and the newly launched Skill India mission, are designed to make Indians feel proud and hopeful. If the two projects succeed in living up to expectations, then India's manufacturing sector will get a much-needed boost in years to come. This, in turn, will create much-needed employment opportunities for the younger workforce of the country. The prime minister seems to have planned the Skill India mission with care, anticipating possible needs that may come up once the project is implemented. The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, which will give a financial reward to those who complete skill training programmes, is aimed at increasing enrolment through incentives. There is hope also for those workers who lack formal training. The recognition of prior learning initiative will certify 10 lakh youth for skills they already possess. If financial constraints have been preventing some from enlisting themselves in skill development programmes, they can get going now by borrowing money under the loan scheme.
The rosiness of the prospects dulls a bit when certain practicalities are considered. Since most employers prefer on-the-job training, it is doubtful whether they will be ready to pay higher wages to candidates applying with certificates from the Industrial Training Institutes. So, for the mission to succeed, Narendra Modi must convince industrialists to pay wages commensurate with the skills of the candidates. If skilled workers do not get absorbed in the organized job sector, they can, of course, become self-employed. But for that to happen, they may need loans again, and the government should be ready to offer that. The ITIs have been languishing for years now. To provide training suited to the needs of a changing world, they must be revamped immediately and their curricula revised. But an outdated syllabus is not the only reason why the ITIs have been lying in neglect. The Indian social set-up tends to look down upon manual labour, skilled or unskilled. Young India aspires to jobs in call centres rather than in carpentry shops. To change this attitude, the government may start providing vocational training right at the school level. Offering skill development courses as an alternative to higher education, as the Skill India mission does, will serve to perpetuate the bias against handiwork.