GUWAHATI, Sept 2: The northeastern region has undergone a “dramatic transformation” to become a competitive destination for investments, Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said here.
The Union minister of state for IT, skill development and entrepreneurship, in an interview with PTI said that connectivity was an issue in the region but that has completely changed.
Now, one can quickly reach any state capital in the Northeast from any other part of the country, creating a big transformation in terms of potential opportunities for the region, he said.
“Connectivity was holding back the growth of business, technology and infrastructure in the region but during the last nine years, physical and technological connectivity were addressed and now the next step is to ensure economic expansion and to grow the GSDPs to double digits as the combined GSDPs of all the northeastern states is only about 8 per cent of the country’s GDP,” he said.
The next stage of economic growth is the creation of jobs and entrepreneurship for which well-planned skilling is very important, he said.
“The question that now arises is how do we get more investments and how do we grow the economy. The answer to both is that we need more and more talented workforce and skilled entrepreneurs who would be able to deliver products not only to other parts of the country but also to the world,” he said.
Therefore skilling becomes the most important enabler for the future growth and potential of Northeast India, the Union minister said.
“In the next 10 to 12 months, we want to create 2.5 lakh world-class talented workforce in the Northeast. We hope that this will boost economic growth in the region by encouraging more investments which will change the whole regional economy,” he said.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always maintained that as India is growing and has become the fifth largest economy in the world, we are attracting investments in electronics, IT, manufacturing and all kinds of areas. If a state or a region wants to benefit from that trajectory, they must have a talented and skilled workforce,” Chandrasekhar said.
A decision was taken on August 8 by the Union government that 2.5 lakh students in the Northeast will be skilled at an expenditure of Rs 400 crore, which will be borne by the Centre.
“The state governments will be important stakeholders in this endeavour as they will design the skills required, decide where the skill centres will be established and take ownership and responsibility to make their youth a talented workforce which in turn will attract investments in the states and result in creation of jobs,” Chandrasekhar said.
The Prime Minister has maintained that skills are important along with educational degrees and he is determined to change the narrative that education is not only for the elite but for all who can be a part of the country’s growth process, the Union minister said.
He pointed out that there are two categories for skilling — for jobs and entrepreneurship.
“Job opportunities are at an all-time high in our country but all jobs require skills. We are encouraging the establishment of skill centres in each college,” he said.
“In the Northeast, there is a very vibrant entrepreneurial culture and through skilling, we want to enable, particularly self-help groups, farmer producers’ organisations (FPOs) and cooperative societies, to be able to access markets through digital platforms, digital skilling through branding and design to be able to access markets and customers far beyond their districts and states,” he said.
Linking them up with coordinating agencies, e-commerce platforms, giving them the skills to compete with product design and branding is what is going to scale the economic activities and create successful entrepreneurs from the Northeast, the Union minister said.
“The PM’s vision is to make entrepreneurs successful as their success leads to more economic activity, growth, revenue, export and attract more industries to the Northeast. We are here to implement it,” Chandrasekhar said.
If a region has a vibrant entrepreneurship culture, to make entrepreneurs grow, expand and be more successful in this new world order, they have to be connected with technology, he said.
Referring to the New Education Policy in which skill development is an important component, the Union minister said that skilling is important for every young Indian in all states of the country, irrespective of which political party is ruling the state or the Centre.
“The prime minister has never discriminated against any state and every scheme is available across the country but some states such as Karnataka, Kerala and West Bengal have chosen to be political and said they will not implement the NEP.
“By not adopting the NEP, there is no political benefit but they are certainly denying a better future for lakhs of students as under this policy, skilling is a part of the curriculum from class 6 onwards. It is very important to realise that till 2014, every year 1.5 crore unskilled students joined the workforce, so they were exploited and mistreated,” he said.
The NEP makes sure that even if a student leaves school for whatever reason, he/she will leave with some basic skills that will help him/her to grow in the future while further skill development will help him/her become industry-ready for jobs, the Union minister said.
On the synergy between his two ministries — IT and skill development — the minister said at the heart of both are “young Indians”.
“I am a public servant of the young Indians to help them develop skills and opportunities in a technology space,” he said.
Chandrasekhar added there is a tremendous opportunity for artificial intelligence and many state governments and colleges are asking for AI skills to be delivered to students, which will be done. (PTI)