NEW DELHI— The Narendra Modi government’s skills development schemes and initiatives are not benefiting women and special measures are needed to provide them appropriate skills and employment opportunities, says the ‘Status Of Women in India’ report released by union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat on Tuesday evening.
The report—which was compiled by an RSS-backed women’s study centre after conducting a national survey of over 74,000 women—flags at least five specific concerns about the way in which the Modi government’s skills and employment-related schemes and initiatives have impacted women. While doing so, it also sheds light on flaws in the design and implementation of the schemes.
Commenting specifically about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship skills development scheme—the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY)—the report notes that, “Women have less access to computers and are unaware of the PMKVY scheme. Also they are unable to benefit from this scheme as the registration process is online.”
The report is significant because it specifically assesses the impact of various schemes, including PMKVY, on women and finds that they are lagging behind men in “acquiring employable skills”.
The survey report observes that no skills training programmes are available for women engaged in “traditional employment such as farming, fishing etc.” and that notwithstanding the setting up of national and regional vocational training institutes exclusively for women, “it seems that women are still unable to access these trainings”.
Fresh ammunition for critics?
The findings of the survey report seem to fit a broad pattern about the performance of the Modi government’s skills development schemes. On March 4 this year, HuffPost Indiareported the many problems in implementation of PMKVY and revealed why it was unlikely to meet its own target of skilling one crore Indians by 2020.
In a report released in March 2018, the Parliament’s standing committee on labour detailed how the PMKVY had failed to meet its targets of skilling people in the first two years of implementation and was unsuccessful in helping them find jobs, thereby “negating the very objective of skill training”.
The report drafted by the RSS-backed women’s study centre named Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra is significant, though it looks only at one financial year 2017-18, because it specifically assesses the impact of various schemes, including PMKVY, on women and finds that they are lagging behind men in “acquiring employable skills”.
Since early January, when a leaked National Sample Survey Office report revealed that India’s unemployment rate stood at a whopping 45-year-high of 6.1% in 2017-18, the Modi government has been facing tough questions over its track record on employment generation.
Concerns about the present and future of employment have resurfaced in the past couple of months after various industries reported job losses due to economic slowdown.
In this context, the survey report prepared by the RSS-backed women’s study group is likely to give ammunition to the Modi government’s critics, who continue to question its performance on skills development and employment generation.
The report is also significant because, notwithstanding these criticisms of the Modi government’s performance on skills development and employment, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat both heaped praise on it at the official launch on Tuesday evening.
This has set a standard in terms of what studies should be like and what intense work has to be done to get a comprehensive pictureUnion Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
“This has set a standard in terms of what studies should be like and what intense work has to be done to get a comprehensive picture,” Sitharaman said at the official launch of the report.
“And that comprehensive picture is what is seen in these two main volumes and one executive summary that is before us. I am very happy to know that, based on the findings of the report, a lot of policy-related studies have commenced and I am sure all of us will benefit from this...and this will help policymaking in a very big way.”
What does the report recommend?
Apart from detailing less than charitable findings about the impact of the Modi government’s schemes and initiatives on women’s skill development and employment, the report also includes a set of recommendations for policymakers.
For the PMKVY to work, the report says, “there is a need to establish a separate structure or wing for women, to ensure access to the training centre and conduct offline courses.”
Further, it also states that skills training should be “employment oriented and employment generating” and that “there is a need to expand the reach of all schemes related to employment generation at grass roots level and efforts to be made to get aware of it.”
One of the key recommendations that the report makes is about women workers in the unorganised sector.
“There should be a monitoring agency to look after the status of women in unorganised sector. Women working in the unorganised sector and unskilled workers are observed to be more prone to every type of exploitation,” it says.
On her part, Dr. Anjali Deshpande, secretary of the Drishti Stree Adhyayan Prabodhan Kendra, explained the utility and rationale for the survey in the following words, “This will help us in policymaking and we will be able to better understand the gravity of a situation. Though this research has been done with the title ‘status of women in India’, yet this is a research about the status of our society because it is in the condition of women that society’s mindset and perspective is reflected.”