Thursday, 22 May 2014

Nation Builders' thoughts on Skilling Poor People

Photo Source : UNDP
Advancing civilization through the democratic form of governance system brings formidable social changes by the people, of the people and for the people to become more civilized in terms of achieving peace, progress and prosperity in the society. One of the key elements which play vital role to bring social changes in poor people’s life- quite drastically- is the skills acquired to do things which earn anything and everything that they want. In other words, skilling has become an important aspect of human capital building in the last decade. India has huge potential for becoming a world of human capital through skill building.

Towards the goal of achieving social changes mainly by skilling poor people has been a major thrust of many of our nation builders in India especially from Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi, and others. Indeed, all of them had very strong perspective thoughts on skilling poor people that play greater differences in their life in society. An attempt has been made in this article to bring the thoughts of the two great sons of India whose visions are eternal in some ways at least in skilling people.

The conventional wisdom was that if anyone is able to understand, speak and write about something simple form in a language becomes literate in society. But the twenty-first century wisdom of literate or skilled human resource has become quite different as the world of science and technology has changed steadily. What is quite interesting is that the nation builders who had views on skilling poor people which are of the twenty-first century perspective.

The father of the nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had expressed number of times through his perspective writings about the importance of skilling poor people for highly productive works in employment. Gandhi said that “Literacy is not the end of education nor even the beginning. It is only one of the means whereby man and woman can be educated. Literacy in itself is no education. I would therefore begin the child’s education by teaching it a useful handicraft and enabling it to pro- duce from the moment it begins its training (1948).”

With regard to the skilling of villagers, Gandhi said, “Without the basic training the villagers are being starved for education (Harijan, 28-4-1946)”. He further said that we need to “develop such a high degree of skill that articles prepared by them should command a ready market outside. When our villages are fully developed there will be no dearth in them of men with a high degree of skill and artistic talent. There will be village poets, village artists, village architects, linguists and research workers (Harijan, 10-11-1946)”.

In fact, Gandhi’s thoughts on skilling people were universal and much beyond the improving of villages. He said that “A mason can build a village house, but it requires an engineer to plan and build a big building or a big dam. Much more talent, knowledge, application and research are required to improve the village implements than to build a bridge on the Ganga. When we are able to attract people of this type by our renunciation and methodical research, we will be able to make rapid far-reaching progress, not till then (Khadi Jagat, 25-7-1941)”.

Similarly, Rajiv Gandhi was one of early Indian politicians to talk about the fruits of India’s demographic dividend from the perspective of the twenty-first century. Indeed, he foresaw the imperatives of skilling poor and young people and institutionalizing the training system. Speaking in 1988, he said, "we are one of the world's oldest civilizations and one of the youngest nations. Our country's demographic profile has undergone a major revolution. Now, there is a preponderance of youth. This is a decisive factor in determining our nation's destiny."  He also quite vividly envisaged that “Training and education do not end when you leave college. It is a continuing process. You keep learning as you keep working.”

Currently India is striving for building up of mass manufacturing hubs in the country with the focus of establishing large infrastructure development to support economic activities of production and services. It is very much pertinent to remember what Rajiv Gandhi said two decades ago about skilling people for the revolution of information and communication technology.

He had said that “To get electronics really moving in India, we have to go down to the other end of the chain. We are mostly talking about manufacturing and selling. We have to go to the other end and produce enough people who will be able to deal with the equipment that you are about to produce, which means a turn-around in our education system. We need many more institutes such as the ITIs, but oriented and run in a much more professional manner, oriented towards more modern fields of technology. We need to really develop a mentality in our people of using modem methods.”

In fact, during the last ten years (2004-2014) the UPA government’s initiatives on skill development were actually to implement the Rajiv’s visions of modernizing the Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) into a Centre’s of Excellences. There was 1,896 government ITIs in the country when the UPA took over in 2004-05. Two schemes (upgradation of 100 government ITIs through Domestic Funding and upgradation of 400 government ITIs with World Bank Funding) were implemented to upgrade the existing government ITIs into Centre’s of Excellences. Remaining 1,396 government ITIs were undertaken part of the scheme called Upgradation of 1,396 government ITIs into Public Private Partnership Mode for converting them into CoEs. All of them were achieved by 2014 with greater improvements in the skilling systems in the country.


1.      Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Volume 80: Dec 28, 1940 - Aug 17, 1941

2.      Rajiv Gandhi’s Speech on “Electronics for Progress”,

3.      Foundation Day Lecture by the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil at the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, 01-September-2007

4.      Rajiv Gandhi’s Speech on Revamping the Educational System


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