With unemployment figures reaching a whopping 8.59 lakh making a provision of jobs for the educated youth has become a major challenge for the Himachal Pradesh government.
The problem is compounded by the fact that the literacy rate is increasing at a higher pace than the inflow of jobs. The stateâ€™s literacy rate, which stood at 31.96 per cent in 1971, increased to 77.13 per cent in 2001.
The state has witnessed an upsurge in the industrial growth after the announcement of the 2003 central industrial package by former Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee. Though the state government claims to have attracted investment worth Rs 17,500 crore, promising employment opportunities to about 2.5 lakh youth, the actual employment procured till now is very small.
Officials in the Industries Department say that as many as 2,126 industrial units have come up in production till January 31, 2006. As many as 22,361 youth had been employed in the industries. They include 17,931 Himachalis which comprise 80.18 per cent of the total number. The absence of technically trained manpower has acted as a major constraint for employing local youth.
With the state lacking pharmacists, textile engineers, boiler attendants, pharmacy operators, etc., industrialists find fulfilling the 70 per cent condition an arduous task. The worst sufferers are pharmaceutical firms and textile units. Though around 307 pharmaceutical firms have sought registration with the Industries Department, less than 100 have initiated production till now. The unavailability of adequate M.Pharma, B.Pharma, D.Pharma and boiler attendants has forced them to hire the lesser qualified staff which affects their operations, confides an HRD manager of a top pharma firm.Similarly, though as many as 73 textile units have got themselves registered in the Baddi-Barotiwala area, barely a few could initiate operations.
Mr Sachit Jain, executive director, Vardman Group says, â€œThe government should consider opening professional colleges catering to textile engineering trade in Himachal . With the shortage of skilled manpower in the textile and pharmaceutical sectors new units are attracting experienced staff from the older units to fulfil the 70 per cent mandate. This is adversely affecting the older units.â€ Some firms like Dr Reddyâ€™s Laboratories and Nicholas Piramel have, however, worked up a unique way to meet this shortage.
â€œWe have selected about 65 students having a science background at the plus two level from various colleges. They are now being trained at Chandigarh and will soon be absorbed for various jobs within the firm for the first two years . Specific responsibilities will then be entrusted to them depending on their performance and competence,â€ says Sanjeev Sharma, a senior manager of the firm.
The senior staff comprising experienced pharmacy experts have, however, been brought from the Hyderabad office to handle crucial responsibilities. Mr Manohar Tekta, a senior manager from Nicholas Piramal, adds that, “The employment exchanges are unable to cater to the demand for experienced candidates. Those who get registered at the time of obtaining their degrees do not bother to update their profile with experience. Nor do the candidates who procure jobs tend to strike off their registration. Hence, interview calls are sent to a large number of candidates, though only a few are found eligible.”
Mr A.R. Singh, President of the Baddi-Barotiwala Nalagarh Industries Association, who has been running his unit since 1988, says, ” Instead of enforcing this 70 per cent condition in one go, the government should formulate a policy to fulfil it within a stipulated period. This would provide time to the industry to train youth according to its requirements and even 100 per cent Himachalis can be absorbed .”
The Labour Department, which is supposed to ensure adherence to the stateâ€™s employment policy, is grappling with its own problems. Despite rapid industrialisation, the crucial posts of Joint Labour Commissioner, Deputy Labour Commissioner, Labour Officer and Labour Inspector have been lying vacant for the past several years.
The Labour Commissioner, Mr Kashmir Chand, while ruing the lack of staff, said, â€œThe government was seized of the problem and it was contemplating to appoint five labour implementation officers in the prime industrial areas. These officials would be responsible for ensuring implementation of the labour laws and employment to Himachalis. With as many as 381 posts lying vacant, a comprehensive plan to strengthen the department by making direct recruitment had been drawn up and sent to the government.â€
The need of the hour is to open short-term courses for training youth in specific industrial trades. Investors can provide in-house training. If the government departments and investors work in tandem, a solution can be worked out which can ensure that the industry not only sustains after the incentive period, but also contributes to the overall growth of the economy.