THE National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council (NM-CC) will urge the government to devise policies to ensure that economic growth, especially the high growth in manufacturing, creates substantial new employment in the rural sector.
“We need employment opportunities to be created where the people are. Employment generation programmes should necessarily have a rural connection,” NMCC member secretary V Govindarajan told ET.
The council, whose national strategy for manufacturing is largely being acted upon by various central ministries and departments, is also looking at specific programmes for skill upgradation of the country’s labour force. Compatibility between the market (the kind of labour the industry requires) and the skill development programmes is important, Mr Govindarajan says.
“The entire spectrum of skills, from low-end to the highest level, is in demand. High economic growth has resulted in a surge in demand for skilled labour,” he said. NMCC recognises that competition in the job market will have to be ensured. Absence of adequately experienced hands is forcing many industrial sectors to settle for the second best. This would adversely impact the Indian industry’s competitiveness in the global market, the council reckons.
Currently, a few centrally sponsored programmes for knowledge enhancement are underway. Most of these have been launched recently. The labour ministry’s Rs 550-crore project for upgradation of the teaching staff of ITIs and the HRD ministry’s scheme for quality enhancement of about 1,100 polytechnics are examples. NMCC reckons there is a need for a few more such focused programmes. The country needs more engineering colleges. It is equally important to ensure that quality of engineering education does not deteriorate as a result. At the highest level of skills and knowledge, like frontier R&D, quality enhancement should be a continuous process. NMCC thinks incentives should be in place for knowledge development at that level.
Currently, more than 80% of Indian R&D happens in the private sector. In the most developed countries, the converse is the case. Policy should give an impetus to R&D in the private sector, Mr Govindarajan said. He cited the recent policy change which allowed the scientists of the various institutes under the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) to partner with private sector. These scientists can get the monetary rewards of fruition of such joint ventures even while retaining their government employment. It is noteworthy that knowledge-intensive industries like pharmaceuticals opted to change their outlook and do own R&D when expediency demanded it. Genuine R&D rarely happens unless the heat of competition and threat to survival is felt.
It remains a fact that notwithstanding scores of technology transfer deals between India and technology-rich countries, the country is still to assimilate frontier technologies in many areas. This endorses the opinion that India should invest much more meaningfully in R&D.
These views of NMCC have already been conveyed to the prime minister’s high-level committee on manufacturing in which it is represented. NMCC’s objective is to spur consistent level of investment, both domestic and foreign, in manufacturing and infrastructure. It thinks for Indian manufacturing to grow at a brisk pace demand needs to be created for goods and services through domestic policies as well as foreign trade policies. Policies should increase the employment content of growth without sacrificing competitiveness. It has identified sub sectors such as textiles and garments, leather and leather products, food processing, etc for special focus.