Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rural youth---empowering them---how?

Rural Youth Empowerment Initiatives in India

India, once considered as an under-developed country whose economy was badly mutilated by British, has slowly and surely come back with a bang on the world map.
India has always been considered as a country of villages and the mainstay of Indian economy was always agriculture. Unfortunately, it has not shown that great a promise in rural growth, especially its youth who form a disgruntled group, though educated, but unfortunately not suitably placed. Even today almost 70% of our population stays in rural areas and they can still be considered as under-developed only.
The urban centers of India may show signs of progress by way of having concrete houses and apartments, sprawling and glittering markets, shopping malls, multilane highways but all in all situation does not appear to be that rosy. Education, though making a breakthrough in rural areas has not really worked wonders with rural educated youth as the major portion have been left unemployed either because of lack of entrepreneurial skills or because of the dearth of suitable jobs in urban centers. The rural youth, educated but unemployed, from the most discontented lot and make a mass exodus to urban centers, landing in poorly paid jobs and ultimately leading to formation of big slums.
The containment of rural educated youth in villages by giving them ample opportunity for their self-sufficiency and making them aware of all the necessary attributes of running a profitable business is the prime need of the time.

Factors to be Reviewed

Poor Development of Agriculture
We need to ponder seriously over certain facts: a) agriculture though a vital sector of Indian economy has got a very poorly developed infrastructure; b) the areas other than agriculture like fishery, livestock development, poultry, and dairy etc. do not get adequate focus; c) fruit and vegetable market cater largely to the urban centers but do not get sufficient attention and are very poorly developed compared to other counterparts in the world. According to data available, only two per cent of the fruits and vegetables are processed compared to 70 per cent in Brazil, 30 per cent in Thailand, 78 per cent in the Philippines and 80 per cent in Malaysia.

Brain Drain
Majority of the urban youth, after getting good education, instead of staying here in India and give back to their mother land make headway to other nations in search of better money which ultimately leads to the stagnancy of Indian economy. Apart from Green Revolution and White Revolution, demand of the time is another type of Revolution known as Technological Revolution. A large section of our rural youth is unemployed because of the lack of required skills. A high rate of growth in economy can be achieved only by having a healthy and educated population. Seventy per cent of our population is rural, dependent on agriculture. Education will provide them with an alternate means of employment. Sadly education is accorded a low priority in rural India due to the need for helping hands with daily chores of agriculture.

Vocational Awareness: A Great Booster
An important fact which we can no longer ignore is that though India’s GDP is growing at close to 9% and is expected to reach 10%, overtook Japan this year in number of billionaires (with 36 billionaires worth a total $191 billion while Japan’s 24 billionaires were worth $64 billion), 77% of our population (836 million people) still lives at less than Rs. 20 per day, mostly in rural India. Benefits of growth and prosperity are not reaching the rural India. According to the data available, share of agriculture in India’s GDP has gone down from 59% in 1950-51 to 20% in 2005-06. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) can play a major role in providing local skill-based self-employment. Shortage of trained manpower in the category of skilled and semi-skilled jobs (telecom, Retail, Finance, Security etc.) is the problem faced by urban population whereas the majority of educated rural youth is frustrated as there are no jobs for them. We need to fill this demand-supply gap. Vocational training to educated and semi-educated rural youth in collaboration with industry with reasonable assurance of job opportunity will bridge this gap. PPP has played a significant role in Rajasthan under Rajasthan Mission in livelihood by way of bringing local industries to become a part of it. This indeed shows a great promise.
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and Mid Day Meal Scheme using DISE (District Information System for Education) can definitely usher a new era.

 But here we have to bring into notice an important fact that apart from public resource, public sector has to be involved for accelerating the process of inclusive growth. A proper policy-framework is to be developed on the part of government, MCAs (Model Concession Agreements) to be discouraged to encourage private investment in developing infrastructure. In other words, once again onus of responsibility lied on PPP (Public-Private Partnerships).
Several NGOs, banks and private sector companies, educational institutions are taking several initiatives in this field and are making substantial contributions which are indeed commendable and show great promise for the future. Prominent among them have been dealt as under.

CII – MARG Initiative by Organizing Rural Job Fair
The rural job fair organized by CII, India’s Premiere Business Association and MARG Ltd. caters to the rural youth in Cheyyur Taluk near Chennai by providing them employment opportunities. The first ever Rural Job Fair at Swarnabhoomi was organized by this joint effort and both training and employment opportunities were provided through GLSDI(Grass Root Level Skill Development Initiative) programme.
An MoU was signed between CII and MARG on June 9. 2007 to initiate the Skill Development Initiative Programme. GLSDI has a target of training 5000 unemployed rural youth for various employment opportunities in the organized sector through a consortium of COS. in management, retail and logistic sector. At present 850 trained youth after completing the GLSDI are well prepared to join the active work force.
In the job fair, out of 650, 450 were offered jobs in various streams by 15 companies of different sectors who had actively participated with an aim to get a good bunch of workers.
GRK Reddy, Chairman CII, Chennai zone and CMD MARG Ltd. said, “MARG Swarnabhoomi encompassing two SEZs will be an engine of economic growth and employment generation. Our business belief is that growth needs to be inclusive. To reaffirm this belief, MARG had partnered with CII in June 2007 to initiate a Grassroot Skill Development Initiative (GLSDI) project in Cheyyur Taluk, the area surrounding MARG Swarnabhoomi. This innovative skill development program targets to generate social inclusiveness and will provide rural youth an opportunity to be a part of the mainstream economy. This initiative would work towards building a movement that will meet the challenges of sustainability.”
B.Santhanam, Chairman, Task Force on Skills, Employability and Affirmative Action, CII (SR) and MD of Saint Gobain Glass Ltd. expressed that rural youth comprising 63% of Indian population belong to employable age group and a major portion of that is comprised by our hard working rural youth.
The companies expanding on a massive scale are most welcome to these exciting and hard working groups of youth anxious to give their best and simultaneously prove beneficial to the companies as well as to themselves. Santhanam very encouragingly stated that, “We as CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) identified this huge demand-supply gap and brought across a path-breaking revolution of a Skills development program for Rural Youths, for all of “YOU”. CII Southern Region launched the CII - MARG Grass Level Skills Development Initiative, a project with thrust on Entry-level Skills. The target of this project at Cheyyur Taluk SEZ is to make 5000 Youth employable with Pre-Employment Skills and also train 1000 youth who would undergo industry specific training.”

CSR Initiative by Nozomi InfoTech

Mahesh Deshpande, hailing from a small town of Wani on Maharashtra and an M.Tech from VNIT, Bangalore, spent 10 years in Tokyo, Japan. He worked in important capacity as the head of IT Asia with Caylon, a Fr. Investment Bank. He sensed the dire need to employ rural youth to bring the technological development of the First World countries like Japan to India and exploit to the maximum, the intelligent quotient of the capable but uneducated and unemployed rural youth population.
First World countries are massive unserviced market for Indian IT and Financial talent, as was observed by Mahesh and thought of initiating a programme of a platform which will serve the purpose of both rural youth of India as well as First World countries.
The three most important questions, which needed to be answered, were why, what and where? Mahesh formed a core team and after several deliberations could reach a conclusion.
-- “Aartha Dharmasya Moolam - Prosperity is the basis for righteousness to be upheld.”—An inspiration given by Chanakya (283 BC), also known as Kautilya, the father of Indian Economics. His book, ‘Arthashatra,’ holds treatise to this.
-- Bring back the lost economic prosperity of India, which was badly exploited and ruined at the hands of various foreign rulers.
-- And last but not the least provide permanent source of income for the rural population which till date depends on the monsoon to solve their livelihood.


 Youth, always restless and impatient, need motivation and proper guidance.
 Provide them a proper medium to learn special skills which will preparthemtocompete in the world class standards.
 To be able to get high remuneration by world-class corporate and companies.

 In creating a training programme, tried and tested and plan its expansion in the most interior and backward areas on India.
 Enabling in market the rural youth to contribute substantially to India’s growing economy.
 Imparting proficiency in speaking of foreign languages and world-class awareness of Finance and IT.

a) Integrated and Intensive Training
A model was devised which imparted integrated training programme comprising of IT and proficiency in Japanese language. Affinity with the Japanese lifestyle and culture was the basis of this special training so that the candidate doesn’t lack anywhere when it comes to the practical application. Japanese faculties were made available live via web-cam to give the direct feel of Japanese pronunciation, intonation and also the body language.

b) Ultra Modern Infrastructure

Modern facilities like high bandwidth ISDN leased line, video conferencing and audio-video facilities and competent faculties are compulsory parts of the Nozomi Interactive training methods like role-plays, mock-meeting, simulations, group discussions etc. ensure that quality learning is provided.
Since Mahesh Deshpande worked extensively in Japan, he made learning of Japanese language as the base as the employment opportunities were vast in Japan. Nozomi students prepare extensively for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) BJT (Business Japanese Test – Conducted by Japanese External Trade Organization). Till date, 260 students have been thoroughly trained in a Japanese way of life to adjust comfortably in Japan.

c) International Contracts
Nozomi executed highly prestigious Japanese contracts for ‘Technological Services and Software Development’ with JP Morgan, AXA, Caylon Bank, Deutsche Bank, Oracle Japan, , BNP Paribas, NAT IXIS, Intelligroup Japan, Wipro Japan.
It is also currently working on BNPP and NAT IXIS IT projects.

d) Domestic Contracts
In India, Nozomi has made agreements with Fidelity, Oracle India, KVH, BNPP Mumbai, Intelligroup, Satyam, and Hexaware here in India for technology services and providing skilled resources.

e) Final Placements

Nozomi’s biggest achievement is that it has secured 100% placements for all its students in prestigious MNCs, especially at Fidelity (Bangalore) which is world’s second largest financial investment company.

f) Success Stories of Nozomi
Ganesh Futane: A Village boy from Ashtona, a village of less than 10,000 population. His parents are Farm Laborers for generations and under never ending debts. He never had the glimpse of Railways till his high school.
Ganesh was brought to Nagpur Centre, trained in Japanese language and now plays a vital role in coordinating with Nozomi’s Japanese Delegates in India.

Chopal Kumar Rathod: A less privileged candidate from Yawatmal District. His parents were striving hard to fetch the minimal basics for life and had never thought of leaving village as were in debts. After seeing Chopal’s desire to do something in life he was brought to Nozomi Nagpur Center, trained at Nozomi, he is now working at Fidelity, Bangalore as a Network Support Engineer. His family also leaves a life of respect and satisfaction though still in village. Chopal has a dream of establishing his own enterprise where in he would like to follow Nozomi’s model, for the up-liftment of his village youngsters, who he believes are very talented.
Harish Chapke: A young aspirant from a village near by Nagpur. Looking at his inherent talent Nozomi has helped him in getting trained and placed. He is now working for Fidelity in Bangalore.
Avinash Ghate: A techno aspirant without resources from a village near Nagpur was assisted by Nozomi as he completed his Diploma in Nagpur, he joined Nozomi. He is now Sr. Network Engineer with Bi-lingual abilities and works to bridge operations between Japan and India.
Nozomi’s purpose of empowering the rural youth technologically is being slowly accomplished and this successful effort can be applied in several other states of India.

SSRDP (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Rural Development Programme)

A brainchild of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is in the true sense, a novel way of living. The art of living does not lay in establishing a connection between self and Almighty but in keeping one’s self-respect intact by way of attaining self-sufficiency in life where one does not have to compromise on the basic needs of life.
SSRDP has become one of the world’s leading NGOs because of its committed approach towards all round development of the rural population and make them self-reliant. It has imbibed a scientific approach towards looking at the growth by way of providing vocational training which supports cottage industry. The same trained villagers then act as the ambassadors of SSRDP. The USP of SSRDP lies in the fact that on one side it encourages keeping the programmes environment-supportive and on the other hand also encourages being commercially independent and giving strong competition which indirectly is conducive to society.
This programme is broadly comprised of three main objectives namely:
1. Education and Training Department for the rural youth
2. The Fellowship Department for the professionals and
3. The Affiliation Department
All 3 together give ample opportunity to the people and various other organizations to contribute substantially in whichever way they want.
The Education and Training Department: It gives a desired training in a particular trade which the youth is interested and strengthens his or her attitude towards that particular trade. The training is of four months duration which also includes ‘Art of Living’ course apart from empowering the youth for competitive jobs and also encourage them to undertake or implement policies which further leads to regeneration in their own villages.
SSRDP has a long vision and sees that efforts are made to bridge the gaps between the needs and resources of rural and urban population and aims to strengthen the rural population economically which naturally will reflect on the economic state of the country as a whole in the long-run. A sound economic system based on the all round development of the country is naturally going to make India a place where all the newer global policies can be initiated as well as implemented.

The PURA Initiative

Proper and fast connectivity between villages (600, 000 approx. ) comprising of around 700 million population is the demand of the day to provide economic opportunities. Providing Urban Amenities to Rural Areas or PURA is the integrated method, which can initiate and further consolidate prosperity in rural India. It mainly pertains to types of connectivity namely physical connectivity through good transport system; electronic connectivity through telecom with high bandwidth fiber optic cables; knowledge connectivity through education awareness towards different types of skill development leading to the initiation of various entrepreneurship programmes.
Banks, micro-credit and marketing of products can help in boosting economic connectivity and start several profit-making enterprises. We need to establish minimum 7000 PURA complexes in the country encompassing 2.3 lakh village panchayats.
VKC (Village Knowledge Centers) can act as active and frontline delivery system for providing knowledge connectivity to PURA complexes i.e. the clusters of villages formed as a result of connectivity efforts. VKC has to provide needful and accurate data to the rural population comprising of farmers, artisans, traders, entrepreneurs and above all, our rural youth. The methodological data for both farmers and fishermen has to be area-specific, covering about 20 to 30 villages. The information provided should be locally relevant. For this trained manpower needs to be deployed to explain the different data pertaining to meteorological, weather, fish, agriculture or any other village commodity.
The ultimate aim of VKC in any case has to be the empowerment of youth to develop economic independency of villages. Instead of procuring manpower from outside village, it should prepare the manpower from within the villages which is going to not only make it easy for uneducated villagers to understand as the local milieu will understand the need in a more pragmatic manner but also provide large scale employment.

e-Sagu—A Novel Initiative

Media Lab Asia and International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Hyderabad, India, called e-sagu, have made a novel breakthrough. In this system, the whole process of improving the quality of the agricultural procedure has been given a novel approach which is very productive and time saving too. Instead of the agricultural experts coming to the village, visit the farms, observe the crop, take the sample, get back to their respective labs, analyze the anomalies and then suggest the remedies, the tedious and time taking cycle has been summarized. Here the help of technological advancement is being taken and information to the agricultural expert is being sent by way of digital photograph of the crops and expert advice is sought by database and other software developed by IT advancement.
e-Sagu comprises of five basic components:
a. Farms/farmers
b. Coordinators
c. Agricultural experts
d. Agricultural Information System (AIS) and
e. Communication System

Now these components can be defined separately:
Farms/Farmers: The owner of the land and the crop is the farmer.

Coordinator: The Coordinator can be one among our youth who has the minimum education up to 10th standard and is also well-versed with the methods of farming.

Agricultural Experts (AEs): He/She has to be graduate in Agriculture and should be expert enough to give right advice.

Agricultural Information System: It is software which has all the relevant information regarding farms, crops, different remedial measures to improve quality of crops, and also weather related information.

Communication System: It is naturally the system which carries the communication between the farmer and agricultural expert to and fro. If somehow, the Internet is not working, AEs can also take help of courier service to give the textual details.
eSagu for the first time launched during Kharif 2004. 1051 cotton farms of 3 villages in Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh were the first ones to get the taste of e-Sagu. Sagu in Telugu= the dialect of Andhra Pradesh – is known as agricultural procedure. A saving of Rs. 3,820 per acre was assessed as a result of implementation of e-Sagu in fertilizers, pesticide sprays and increase in the procedure.
In 2005-06, the system was implemented in 5000 farms of Cotton, Chilies, Rice, Groundnut, Castor and Red gram in 35 villages of 6 districts of Andhra Pradesh. E-Sagu Agro-Advisories helped a lot in increasing the outputs.

Initiative by World Corps India’s CIC Project
As has been detailed under Brain Drain section, exodus of rural youth to urban areas result in great loss of youth energies in rural areas. World Corps India has undertaken a two-fold plan to stop this. On one hand, it provides information to the rural population and on the other hand, it also gets employment for our educated rural youth. A group of Young educated people manage and operate a CIC (Community Information Center). CIC collects information on virtually everything which is related to our rural population, be it farming, health, weather report, market status or even availability of a particular service at a particular place.
The Kuppam Project undertaken by WCI in Kuppam District of Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh is one such glaring example of successful CIC initiative.
It basically focused on following provisions:
 G2C – Government to Citizen services
 B2C – Business to Citizen services
 C2C – Civil Society Organizations to citizen services; all
under one roof.

Empowerment of educated youth with relevant skills and awareness helped them in attaining suitable employment and also enhancing their self-respect.

Initiative of Government NGOs
Urban centers of India though developed in almost all the sector greatly experience the shortage of skilled manpower to successfully implement their various profit-making programmes. Tecnopak Advisers Pvt. Ltd. feels that retailers in near future are going to create almost 2 million direct jobs. Reliance Industry, one of the leading private sector company seems to require around a million people for their direct and indirect staff by 2010for its various stores and other operations. Meera Shenoy, executive director of Employment Generation and Marketing Mission (EGMM) in Hyderabad that operates several rural retail academies says, “We take rural youth from remote and interior areas, from socially and economically under-privileged families. Retail companies are not able to get youth because in urban area there is competition from technology and outsourcing companies. We are looking at training for accountants, cashier, billing staff etc.” Subhiksha, a retail chain hires young people, trains them for a week and then employs them in their stores. Several of the retailers are in contact with institutes such as IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University), also with NGOs namely Dr. Reddy’s Foundation, Smile Foundation and Youth Reach India etc. to cater to the requirement of urban demand of manpower and simultaneously providing employment to our rural youth.

ICICI Initiative
ICICI Bank has decided to recruit graduates from small towns and villages who have a government school background. The fast growing bank is recruiting over 100,000 people every year. ICICI Bank's strategy is in tune with the company's fast changing profile, as it is now expanding its network in semi-urban and rural areas.
The strategy is to recruit people from humble backgrounds and polish them through training. This strategy would not only help in containing the attrition rate, but will also help in absorbing unemployed educated youth from semi-urban and rural areas.
Lason India, a BPO set-up, launched the first ever rural BPO called Chida Soft, located in Kizhanur village of Tiruvallur District in Tamil Nadu, employing 14 unemployed graduate girls from the village — an experiment which is proving to be successful.
“ ‘Youth 4 Jobs' is a rural retail academy and vocational training initiative of the Andhra Pradesh Government with an `employment generation and marketing mission.“ It has been started with the philosophy that the most sustainable livelihood option is to provide jobs for the youth by giving them market relevant skills in markets where recruiting such youth as a value proportion makes sense.
The first batch of 700 rural youths has graduated with 90% placement (with 40% of them being women) in well-known retailers such as Future Group, McDonalds, Food World, Spencers and Reliance. If more corporate follow the ICICI and Lason India example, it is sure to help the rural economy.
As the rural youth realizes that the salaries drawn by them from corporate is much higher than what they would have made residing in cities, where the cost of living is also high, they will naturally feel the difference and their urge to migrate to big cities will also come down. This will naturally lessen the urban population too, which is finding quite at loss when it comes to infrastructural development because of the surge in the number of people residing in cities. Low-income of the people belonging to rural areas is naturally pushing them towards committing various crimes which is quite on the rise in urban centers.
A big future for rural India is in waiting if more and more second run management institutes offer full-time courses in rural marketing (instead of making it just an elective course) which trains people to suit the requirement of corporate who are making a beeline to rural India to exploit its huge potential.
Many of these rural youth are bright, with native intelligence that can be effectively channelized by the corporate to achieve their targets in rural India. Besides, these youths will not be as expensive as city-bred youngsters whose expectations have skyrocketed because of the lucrative salaries offered by the BPOs ad the IT sector.
Due to lack of committed people who are willing to soil their feet in the dusty hinterland, many rural initiatives are aborted or forever remain in the pilot stage, rarely scaled up. The situation is bound to change if corporate recruit youths from small towns, which in turn should not only help them, but also help the rural economy, prosper.

NYDC Initiative
Apart from the above-mentioned measures the computer-training program being conducted at the NYDC Training Centre with the creation of computer facilities at the Youth NYDC has partnered with 150 Youth Clubs to continue and further disseminate computer literacy and computer related educational and vocational training involving computers. Besides it empowers, economically those who have acquired the skills to be able to disseminate the literacy modules in the community setting. Extension Centres are proposed to educate all the children living in the rural and tribal community of slums within their area of operation, in the basics of computer literacy and through computer aided learning.
The NYDC (Navajyothi Youth Development Center) won the district best youth organization Award for the year 2001 and won the district best youth leader Award for the year 2002-2003 under this programme by the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sanghathan of Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports Government of India. The Ministry had permitted us to start a programme for Research as Center for Youth Development as we named it as Navajyothi Youth Development Center.

Youth, in all ages, has been in the vanguard of progress and social change. Thirst for freedom, impatience for quicker pace and progress and a passion for innovation, coupled with idealism and creative fervor, saw the youth in the forefront of the freedom struggle in our own land. Unfortunately the youth of today face the challenge of economic development and technological process with social injustice put forward by our own system in which the prime responsibility lies on red tapism and lack of proper motivation.
So, naturally, the onus of responsibility lies in a great deal on our government (who has to launch a corruption-less clean system) to provide creative jobs to youth, on NGOs to work in tandem with government in directing and enabling the young rural crowd to become self-reliant, productive and contribute substantially towards national development as a whole. Families, educators, leaders, NGOs, voluntary agencies, all need to work towards a common goal of empowering the rural educated youth to accelerate the economic, social, political and personal growth of nation. If everything goes according to the plan, nothing can stop India to regain its old and ancient adjective ‘The Golden Bird.’