There are many facilities in the country which are not fit for workers but we can create a clean environment. The scale of operations is so huge that it won’t cost too much; so for instance, hostels can be setup by a third party and be used by workers across factories.
Subramanian Ramadorai, former TCS vice-chairman and adviser to the PM in the NSDC, tells FE that after the migrants issue, companies may locate factories in areas where workers are not too far from their villages. Also, given a fair number of workers may not return to the urban areas, Ramadorai suggests they be trained via mobile training centres and employed locally; the Jharkhand training model, he believes, has been fairly successful. Excerpts:
What do we need to do to make life easier for migrants in the cities?
There are roughly anywhere between 70 and 100 million migrants in the country and if we want them to work in urban areas, we must look for a longterm solution. For instance, we need to build hostels where they can stay and also provide them accessible public health facilities. We cannot have 40-100 people sharing a toilet, in a place like
Dharavi, it is unacceptable. Access to the PDS is also something we can’t afford to neglect.
Who will build the hostels for the workers? Can they come back to Dharavi kind of places? is it an option?
If I am going to employ somebody, either I will rent or ask third parties to build on a rental model rather than on a
capital-intensive model. Some people will come back to Dharavi, the desperation will drive them back, some
may survive and they may be immune or there may be a vaccine in the future. But we need to think of a long-term
solution through education, training and skilling. If we are able to bring down the number of people in Dharavi, from say 15 lakh to say5 lakh, we would have solved a part of the problem. We can’t solve it in one shot, saying from tomorrow we will have hostels, that’s not going to happen.
Since not all workers will go back, how do we find them jobs in the villages?
Some of the workers are not coming back soon; may be about 60% will come back. So, we must start talents counting in the villages and use mobile training centres to train them and capture their skills.Indian Railways, for instance, could easily have captured the data at the point where they disembarked from the trains on their way home, since they have the Aadhaar numbers. And NSDC or corporate CSR could have addressed the skills problems. We need to create an electronic digital platform, an urban-rural job network, which tells us what skills are available in which village and therefore, what kinds of jobs are possible there. We can then match the capabilities, even migrant
workers have certain skills and these must be used.
Do we have the facilities to train people in the villages?
We can train them through mobile training centres, through the pan-IIT model which is set up in every single
district with Jharkhand as an example. Or it can be done through L&T, Tata Group, or Mahindras. I think the corporate sector needs to step in — either through CSR funding or as corporate funding part of their operations. We can align with the CSCs also; the Tatas, for instance, have built a capacity with 20-25 lakhs.
As a country, we don’t really have much skilling capacity, do we?
No, in terms of scale with relation to the requirements, we don’t. But the direction is correct, there are private and CSR initiatives and everyone sees this as a commonality of purpose so that is encouraging.We probably spend less than 1% of GDP on skilling whereas anything less than 5-10%is insufficient if you want to be part of a global supply chain.
There are new sectors—space, renewable energy, defence, atomic energy and the players that are going to be participating on the demand side must take the ownership an work with the state support to frame the policies,those are critical. But there are successful experiments taking place like in Jharkhand where they have done a very good job of training across manufacturing, nursing and so on.
How are companies going to cope once the workers are back?
Workerswilldemandbetterliving conditions since otherwise there will be more infections, so some managements may allow them to live within the premises. The IT sector is an exception because people can work from home but that won’t be possible in factories.
There are many facilities in the country which are not fit for workers but we can create a clean environment. The scale of operations is so huge that it won’t cost too much; so for instance, hostels can be setup by a third party and be used by workers across factories. The pandemic has caused us all to reflect and I believe change will come and I see companies working towards it. They will start thinking of how, instead of workers coming from a remote location to a big place how they can take factories to remote locations. Just like we had a mobile revolution and television,
and then access to data this too will happen.
Will companies increasingly use less labour?
This is a trend across the world. Incorporating automation into the job function is going to be high and manufacturing is no exception. Whether it is AI, IoT or connected devices on the shop floor or in the enterprise, it is going to be a way of life. Our responsibility is to educate and skill workers whether in urban or rural India and we need to investment in education and the technology inputs. There is no choice but to do this over five years and policies have to reflect this. We need to think of how,if today we are at 400 million, how we can take it to the next
How can we use MNREGA to push skills development?
MNREGAisabout110million, in terms of scale, and the budget allocation is about Rs 1,00,000 crore. We have to include skill development as a part of this because even in rural India, we can address problems to there is environment protection, can be addressed, more importantly water problems too. There are enough possibilities for getting them skilled to work. We have to capture talent in villages and use it in agriculture, the distribution system and the food chain.