1. ‘Skill India’ urgently needs reforms

Salvaging the Indian demographic dividend must be a key part of India’s growth story. In 2016, the Government of India formed the Sharada Prasad Committee to rationalise the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs), which are employer bodies mostly promoted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and other industry associations, and improve ‘Skill India’. The committee submitted its report in 2016. Now over a year later, it may be prudent to look at the reforms it suggested and action taken in the vocational education/training (VET) system.

The two goals in ‘Skill India’ are, first, to meet employers’ needs of skills and, second, to prepare workers (young and old) for a decent livelihood. The recurring theme in the report is its focus on youth. Each recommendation underlines that the VET is not just for underprivileged communities; it is not a stopgap arrangement for those who cannot make it through formal education. It is for all of us.

Streaming for students

It suggests concrete steps to ensure a mindset change, such as having a separate stream for vocational education (in secondary education), creating vocational schools and vocational colleges for upward mobility, and having a Central university to award degrees and diplomas. Streaming would mean that the ‘diploma disease’, which is resulting in growing tertiary enrolment along with rising unemployment among the educated, would be stemmed. China, for instance, has such a separate stream after nine years of compulsory schooling, and half the students choose VET at the senior secondary level (after class nine).

This requires a serious engagement of employers. Private vocational training providers (VTPs) that mushroomed as private industrial training institutes (ITIs) and National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC)-financed short-term training providers are no substitute for industry-employer engagement with each pillar of the VET ecosystem: secondary schools; ITIs, public and private; NSDC-funded VTPs; ministries that train, and firms that conduct enterprise-based training.

A global alignment

The second recurring theme is the realisation of human potential. This means aligning the courses to international requirements, ensuring a basic foundation in the 3Rs, and life-long learning. It implies national standards for an in-demand skill set with national/global mobility that translates into better jobs. Short duration courses (with no real skills) that provide low pay for suboptimal jobs cannot be called national standards. Hence the current national standards have to drastically improve.

This means that we should have no more than 450 courses — Germany has only 340 courses — in accordance with the National Classification of Occupations 2015 (which itself was based on the International Standard Classification of Occupations). Such trainees will be a national asset. What we have instead are nearly 10,000 standards, produced mostly by consultants. There cannot be thousands of standards (compressed into 2,000 qualification packs/job roles), and “delivered” to trainees in a matter of a few months. This is not what the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF) had recommended. The focus should be in strengthening reading, writing and arithmetic skills. No skill development can succeed if most of the workforce lacks the foundation to pick up skills in a fast-changing world. Vocational training must by definition be for a minimum of a year, which includes internship (without which certification is not possible). Short-term training should be confined to recognising prior learning of informally trained workers who are already working.

The third theme is to do what is right when no one is watching you, because, as in other industries, the regulator has displayed a limited capacity to regulate. Cases of a conflict of interests, of rigged assessments and of training happening only on paper are not new.

A recent parliamentary report on private ITIs has exposed yet another scam — the Quality Council of India’s approval for thousands of private ITIs. If the number of private ITIs has grown from under 2,000 to over 11,000 in five years, it points to a colossal failure of regulation, accompanied by a lack of quality training on offer at such ITIs.

There is a huge ethics and accountability issue if there is no credible assessment board and when there are too many sector skill councils, each trying to maximise their business. The Sharada Prasad Committee had recommended that the number of SSCs should correspond to the National Industrial (Activity) Classification (which has 21 economic activities across the entire economy), but which is still way larger than Australia’s six. Little has happened except for the number of SSCs dropping from 40 to 39.

For a unification

The first policy step should be towards a unification of the entire VET system. What we have today are fragmented pillars. Each of the five pillars does what it wants to, with no synergy. An NSDC-centric focus has left the skill development efforts of 17 ministries out of the same scrutiny. ‘Skill India’ can have an impact only when all of them work together and learn from each other. SSCs, which are supposedly industry representatives, should be engaging themselves with each pillar of the system, and not just NSDC-funded VTPs.

The second step is to enhance employer ownership, responsibility and their ‘skin in the game’. Media reports often highlight the corporate sector lamenting about “unemployable youth”. The private sector places the onus on the government, treating it as a welfare responsibility, while the government looks to the private sector since it is the end consumer of skills. The result is that only 36% of India’s organised sector firms conduct in-firm training (mostly large ones, which are also the only ones that take on apprentices under a Government of India Act).

We need a clear fix for this. In this regard the committee’s recommendation of a reimbursable industry contribution model (applicable only to the organised sector) should solve the perennial problem of poaching while providing a common level field. It could ensure reimbursements for those companies undertaking training while rewarding industry for sharing and undertaking skilling until everyone in the company is skilled. This will lay the foundation for making at least our organised workforce 100% skilled.

The third policy step is in getting the government to recognise that decades have been spent in building a government-financed and managed, and hence supply-driven system.

Data gathering by sector

Does the government, which is not generating much employment in the public sector, really know what industry’s skill requirements are in the private sector? Private employers do know this but there has been no serious effort by them to gather data. So the government needs to confine itself to roles it is capable of performing and not involving itself through multiple ministries in activities in which it has no comparative advantage.

One such role is to have surveys, once every five years, through the National Sample Survey Office, to collect data on skill providers and skill gaps by sector. Such data can guide evidence-based policy-making, as against the current approach of shooting in the dark.

Finally, we need more reflection from stakeholders on the actual value addition done by the skilling initiative. The NSDC, which was envisioned as a public-private partnership, receives 99% of its funding from government, but its flagship scheme has a less than 12% record of placement for trainees. The NSQF framework has seen little adoption in private sector. And, more than two-thirds of courses developed have not trained even one student so far.

India can surely become the world’s skill capital but not with what it is doing right now. The reforms suggested by the committee can be a good starting point for we cannot let another generation lose its dreams.

  1. Retaining confidence: on Sri Lanka surviving the no-trust vote

The resounding defeat of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in Sri Lanka’s parliament provides an opportunity for its bickering leaders to reassess their priorities. However, it may not end the prevailing political uncertainty as the three-way competition among President Maithripala Sirisena, Mr. Wickremesinghe and their common rival, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, is likely to continue. The confidence of parliament has been numerically settled in favour of the Prime Minister now, with Tamil and Muslim parties backing him in the crucial vote, but in electoral terms the question of political supremacy is still open. For nearly two months, the power-sharing arrangement between Mr. Wickremesinghe’s United National Party and President Maithripala Sirisena’s Sri Lanka Freedom Party has been unravelling. Their national unity government came under strain after both parties, contesting separately, lost to a party backed by Mr. Rajapaksa in local body elections in February. Mr. Sirisena held Mr. Wickremesinghe responsible for the debacle, seeing in the results an expression of public anger against the government’s poor performance on the economic front and a bond scandal in the central bank helmed by the Prime Minister’s appointee as governor. A sudden outbreak of communal violence targeting Muslims last month worsened the political situation. The ‘Joint Opposition’ consisting of loyalists of Mr. Rajapaksa moved the no-confidence motion, despite lacking the numbers needed to bring down Mr. Wickremesinghe, citing the bond scam and the sectarian violence as major grounds. The aim was obvious: to deepen the wedge between the President and the Prime Minister, in the hope that some of the SLFP members now in the ranks of the government would abandon Mr. Wickremesinghe, and that he would face a leadership tussle within the UNP.

Mr. Sirisena’s hostility to Mr. Wickremesinghe could not tilt the scales in favour of those batting for the latter’s ouster. The fear of a return to the days of Mr. Rajapaksa’s political dominance possibly deterred more members from joining the bandwagon. With the no-confidence motion out of their way, there ought to be some recognition that matters of far greater import await attention. The local body poll results have given sufficient indication of the people’s concerns over the economy and unemployment. Investigation into past crimes and corruption seems to be slow. In addition, the process of framing a new and inclusive constitution needs to be expedited. Sri Lanka has made a commitment to the international community that it would promote accountability and reconciliation as part of its post-war transformation. This needs the President and the Prime Minister to work together, de-emphasising their political differences. The two leaders came together in 2015 and got a mandate from the people for good governance and institutional reform. Sri Lanka needs a reboot to bring these objectives back on track.


1) Salvaging

Meaning: Retrieve or preserve (something) from potential loss or adverse circumstances.

Example: “It was the only crumb of comfort he could salvage from the ordeal”

Synonyms: Retain, Preserve

2) Prudent

Meaning: Acting with or showing care and thought for the future.

Example: “No prudent money manager would authorize a loan without first knowing its purpose”

Synonyms: Wise, Well judged


Antonyms: Unwise, Imprudent

3) Stopgap

Meaning: A temporary way of dealing with a problem or satisfying a need.

Example: “Transplants are only a stopgap until more sophisticated alternatives can work”

Synonyms: Improvisation, Expedient


Antonyms: Permanent

4) Stemmed

Meaning: Originate in or be caused by.

Example: “Many of the universities’ problems stem from rapid expansion”

Synonyms: Have its origins in


Antonyms: Cause, Give rise to

5) Mushroomed

Meaning: Increase, spread, or develop rapidly.

Example:  “Environmental concern mushroomed in the 1960s”

Synonyms: Proliferate, Grow/develop rapidly,


Antonyms: Contract, Fail

6) Suboptimal

Meaning: Of less than the highest standard or quality.

Example: “Suboptimal working conditions”

7) Conflict

Meaning: A state of mind in which a person experiences a clash of opposing feelings or needs.

Example: “Bewildered by her own inner conflict, she could only stand there feeling vulnerable”

8) Rigged

Meaning: Manage or conduct (something) fraudulently so as to gain an advantage.

Example: “The results of the elections had been rigged”

Synonyms: Manipulate, Arrange fraudulently

9) Scam

Meaning: A dishonest scheme; a fraud.

Example: “An insurance scam”

Synonyms: Fraud, Swindle

10) Colossal

Meaning: Extremely large or great.

Example:  “A colossal amount of mail”

Synonyms: Huge, Massive


Antonyms: Tiny

11) Synergy

Meaning: The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.

Example: “The synergy between artist and record company”

12) Scrutiny

Meaning: Critical observation or examination.

Example: “Every aspect of local government was placed under scrutiny”

Synonyms: Careful examination, inspection, survey, scan, study, perusal; More


Antonyms: Glance, Cursory look

13) Lamenting

Meaning: Express regret or disappointment about something.

Example: “She lamented the lack of shops in the town”

Synonyms: Bemoan, Bewail

14) Onus

Meaning: Something that is one’s duty or responsibility.

Example: “The onus is on you to show that you have suffered loss”

Synonyms: Burden, Responsibility

15) Reimburse

Meaning: Repay (a person who has spent or lost money).

Example: “The investors should be reimbursed for their losses”

Synonyms: Compensate, Recompense

16) Perennial

Meaning: Lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring.

Example: “His perennial distrust of the media”

Synonyms: Everlasting, Perpetual

17) Poaching

Meaning: Take or acquire in an unfair or clandestine way.

Example: “Employers risk having their newly trained workers poached by other firms”

Synonyms: Steal, Appropriate

18) Confine

Meaning: Keep or restrict someone or something within certain limits of (space, scope, or time).

Example: “He does not confine his message to high politics”

Synonyms: Enclose, Incarcerate


Antonyms: Release

19) Envisioned

Meaning: Imagine as a future possibility; visualize.

Example: “She envisioned the admiring glances of guests seeing her home”

Synonyms: Visualize, Imagine

20) Bickering

Meaning: Argue about petty and trivial matters.

Example: “Couples who bicker over who gets what from the divorce”

Synonyms: Squabble, Argue


Antonyms: Agree

21) Reassess

Meaning: Consider or assess again, in the light of new or different factors.

Example: “We have decided to reassess our timetable”

22) Prevailing

Meaning: Existing at a particular time; current.

Example: “The unfavourable prevailing economic conditions”

23) Rival

Meaning: A person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity.

Example: “He has no serious rival for the job”

Synonyms: Competitor, Opponent


Antonyms: partner, ally

24) Unravelling

Meaning: Investigate and solve or explain (something complicated or puzzling).

Example: “They were attempting to unravel the cause of death”

Synonyms: Solve, Resolve

25) Strain

Meaning: Make severe or excessive demands on.

Example: “He strained her tolerance to the limit”

Synonyms: Overtax, Overwork

26) Debacle

Meaning: A sudden and ignominious failure; a fiasco.

Example: “The only man to reach double figures in the second-innings debacle”

Synonyms: Fiasco, Failure

27) Scandal

Meaning: An action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.

Example: “A bribery scandal involving one of his key supporters”

Synonyms: Impropriety, Misconduct

28) Helmed

Meaning: Manage (an organization).

Example: “The magazine he helmed in the late eighties”

29) Sectarian

Meaning: A member of a sect.

Example: “A Jewish sectarian who preached the redemption of the Gentiles”

Synonyms: Separatist, Dissenter

30) Wedge

Meaning: Force into a narrow space.

Example: “She wedged her holdall between two bags”

Synonyms: Squeeze, Cram

31) Abandon

Meaning: Complete lack of inhibition or restraint.

Example: “She sings and sways with total abandon”

Synonyms: Uninhibitedness, Recklessness


antonyms: Self-control

32) Tussle

Meaning: A vigorous struggle or scuffle, typically in order to obtain or achieve something.

Example: “There was a tussle for the ball”

Synonyms: Scuffle, Fight

33) Hostility

Meaning: Hostile behaviour; unfriendliness or opposition.

Example: “Their hostility to all outsiders”

Synonyms: Antagonism, Bitterness

Antonyms: Friendliness, Approval

34) Ouster

Meaning: Ejection from a property, especially wrongful ejection; deprivation of an inheritance.

Example: “Ouster proceedings to remove the husband from the matrimonial home”

35) Deterred

Meaning: Discourage (someone) from doing something by instilling doubt or fear of the consequences.

Example: “Only a health problem would deter him from seeking re-election”

Synonyms: Put off, Discourage


Antonyms: Encourage

36) Bandwagon

Meaning: An activity or cause that has suddenly become fashionable or popular.

Example: “Companies sought to strengthen their share prices by jumping on the dot-com bandwagon”

37) Await

Meaning: Wait for (an event).

Example: “We await the proposals with impatience”

Synonyms: Wait for; Expect

38) Inclusive

Meaning: Including all the services or items normally expected or required.

Example: “Menus stating fully inclusive prices”

Synonyms: All-in, All-inclusive


Antonyms: Exclusive

39) Expedited

Meaning: Make (an action or process) happen sooner or be accomplished more quickly.

Example: “He promised to expedite economic reforms”

Synonyms: Speed up, Accelerate


Antonyms: Delay, Hinder

40) Reconciliation

Meaning: The restoration of friendly relations.

Example: “His reconciliation with your uncle”

Synonyms: Reuniting, Reunion
Antonyms: Estrangement, Alienation

Want to learn more , Check the Previous Day of THE HINDU EDITORIAL which was published in our Bankersdaily and learn new words to enhance your Vocabulary.


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