The present era is of rapid technological change. Currently, products become outmoded in a short span of time. Hence, the industry is always on its toes for technology development. Technology upgradation cannot take place only on installation of modern sophisticated machinery. It is also necessary to recruit skilled staff who can handle such sophisticated machinery. In the alternative, the company will fail to derive desired results, and ultimately the company may suffer financial losses. It is therefore necessary to bridge the skill gap.

It goes to the credit of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India for initiating immediate steps for skill development, by creating a 2-tier mechanism. At the apex level is the National Skill Development Council which works in unison with the Sector Skill Councils being the second layer.

The objectives of the skill development are manifold. It encourages standardization in the certification process, it maintains a registry of skilled persons, and increases productivity of existing workers.

The Hon’ble Union Finance Minister in his Budget speech of 2014 proposed a scheme to encourage skill development for youth by providing monetary rewards for successful completion of approved training programmes. So far 14 lakh youths have been trained, of which 9 lakh passed the prescribed test and each of about 8 lakh received  a reward of Rs.10,000.

The Union Labour Ministry is, it is reported, planning to scale up training through ITIs [Industrial Training Institutes started by Government] and  start other appropriate programmes with a view to providing jobs to one crore people. With a target to develop skills of 24 lakh youth, the Hon’ble Prime Minister has approved on 2oth March, 2015 a skill development programme titled ‘Pradhan mantri Kaushalya Vikas Yojana [ PMKVY] with an allocation of Rs.1,500 crore.

Textile Skill Council

The Textile Industry has set up a Technical Skill Council [ TSC] under the scheme of  National Skill Development Corporation.

TSC for textiles has prepared training programmes for  56 jobs as listed in Annexure I. Training in only a few positions like plumber, electrician required  in the textile industry can be arranged in ITIs. One important trade in textile industry is fitter. The basic training for a fitter can be arranged in it is; but thereafter a  trainee fitter must be trained on textile machines in a mill. Training for all  other jobs must be conducted in a textile mill. The procedure for affiliation of textile mills to TCS is stated in Annexure II.

Combine Skill Development with setting up of mills in rural areas

Poverty in India is concentrated in villages. The landless workers and those having marginal lands suffer most. Assocham [Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry]     has been orchestrating to build confidence, conviction  and growth in the Indian economy  by ensuring livelihood for 1.3 billion Indians.

Two-thirds of India’s more than 1.2 billion people are under the age of 35. Nowhere is the demand for jobs far more acute and the obstacles more formidable  than in rural areas, where more than 70% of India’s population lives.

To make the scheme workable, the Apprentice Act should permit engagement of apprentices for the full period of training and re-training to acquire the desired level of skills and to absorb only those candidates who pass the test at the end of the apprentice period. To stop poaching of highly skilled workers with the allure of a big jump in wages the mills which trained the worker is a distinct loser. Such poaching will be considerably checked when the population of skilled workers in different jobs becomes significant. Till then, the certificates for successful completions of training programme may be withheld for a period of at least three years.

For balanced growth of Indian economy, creation of jobs in rural India should be the prime target of skill development programme in the textile industry. In other words, setting up of textile mills in rural India should get priority.

The proposal has immense benefits.. Firstly, rural population will get jobs in their backyard, which will save them the agony of working in cities, where the slum is the only place for living and the cost of living is unaffordable. If the mill is set up in cotton belts, there will be great saving in criss-cross movement to different centres, normally at far-off places for purposes of spinning, weaving, processing and garmenting. Thus cotton grower will get a better return, without casting additional burden on the consumers of fabrics and garments. Besides, this proposal is eco-friendly.

Apparently, there is no scheme for reimbursement of expenditure but there is a scheme of reward money. Candidates from economically-disadvantaged sections will be allowed to pay initial fees equal to the difference between the training cost and the reward money they are eligible which would be paid direct to the training provider. This scheme is clumsy and probably not attractive since the mills would have to train apprentices  on their own machines, there will be loss of production and mills will suffer severe financial losses. Hence, the scheme must provide for reimbursement of expenditure for mills on no-profit-no-loss basis. The industry should also be given special subsidy to the extent of 10 per cent, apart from TUFS benefits, for setting up mills in rural areas.

In the times to come, the textile industry is going to get more and more importance, particularly because the present signals indicate that China, which may rightfully   be called the clothier to the world, is on the backfoot and wants to progressively go out of  textiles  with preference to other industries and services.

Economic Impact

India’s higher education system contributes 3.5 lakh engineers and 2.5 million university graduates annually to the labour force. It is said that about 5 million graduates remain unemployed at any given time as per Shri Kishor Jayaraman in Business Line dated 4th February, 2015.

Important positions like fitters, weavers etc in textile mills in and around cities and towns may be re-designated as sub-engineers or sub-technicians. If graduates are willing to  get themselves trained,  they could be gainfully employed to work on machines. The only precaution to be taken is that such upgraded positions should not be called to do lower type of jobs, but they should be drafted for preparation of reports etc. and should be made eligible to occupy higher technical positions, on satisfactory performance and acquiring skills for supervision.

In textile mills in rural areas, skilled youth in such  areas should be considered for jobs. Here there is no need of the scheme suggested  for textile mills in urban areas.

Skill development and employment go hand in hand and the industry must start respecting the certificates given by TCS.

Time has come for Central and State Governments to consider the issue in the larger interest of national economy. All that I may say is that the textile industry should not miss the bus of opportunities.

By- Shri V.Y.Tamhane , Ex Secretary of Mill Owners Association