“While the Education system in India is to shift drastically towards technical or skill based education even at school level, however the shift is not to happen overnight and will take some time to impact the system. Here we must remember that our focus should be on creating entrepreneurs who will create jobs apart from imparting job facilitating skills”, asserted Satyajeet Rajan, Additional Chief Secretary, Labour, Skills and Excise, Government of Kerala in a conversation with Poulami Chakraborty of BW Businessworld.
How have been the past one year of pandemic for you?
Pandemic has had positives and negatives. On the positive side, we have learnt new less expensive ways of doing business. It has also enabled us to be self-reliant and simultaneously, enabled us to inculcate good and healthy habits as usage of masks and sanitizer. On the negatives, second phase has taken quite a big toll.
The pandemic has demanded jobs of many labours and skilled professionals also during the past one year. What key take-away lesson did you hone during this crucial period?
The pandemic, as well as containment and mitigation measures designed to halt its spread, had a large but heterogeneous impact on the demand for skills. Total volume of job vacancies has fallen drastically, with even larger declines in some sectors. However, the demand for specific skills in the healthcare sector, IT and logistics increased. There is also evidence of an increase in vacancies involving remote-working arrangements.
How have your department dealt with the issues of migrant labourers during the past year which has grabbed a massive attention?
The Government of Kerala considers all citizen equally. Native as well as migrant workers were given special attention during the pandemic situation. First priority was to keep them safe and healthy. Labour Department in co-ordination with various other Departments ensured shelter, healthy food, food materials and cooking facilities (if workers want to prepare their food by their own). Measures were also taken to ensure recreation facilities and to address psycho-social issues.
What measures have been taken for reinstating the jobs of these people who lost their bread and butter during the last pandemic?
The Government of Kerala has ensured all measures to ensure jobs be restored to labourers duly. We have issued official orders to employers to restrain retrenchment and took actions against employers for acting against interest of workers. Our officers carefully addressed all the issues and worked hard to maintain peace in employment sector.
Kerala is known to be one of the most educated state in the country. As a skill development authority of the state what are the key measures that you have taken to enhance skill development among the citizens?
The structure of skilling and education is going to face a rapid facelift and complete change in the coming days. Today, people are required to do multi-tasking and the majority of skills and education are imparted through online materials. Imparting of majority of skills online was a huge fall out of the endemic. The usage and application of IT and IT based education is of utmost importance for all to adopt to.
With the Indian education system converting vividly with a focus on creating job oriented knowledge for even school children, how do you think that it will impact the education system as a whole?
While the Education system in India is to shift drastically towards technical or skill based education even at school level, however the shift is not to happen overnight and will take some time to impact the system. Here we must remember that our focus should be on creating entrepreneurs who will create jobs apart from imparting job facilitating skills.
With the second wave of Covid just hitting in states, what measures are being taken by your department for Covid management and migrant workers?
Due to the start of second wave of COVID 19 in the state, the Labour Commissioner has issued circular to ensure the safety and welfare of Interstate Migrant Workmen. An emergency meeting was conveyed under Labour Commissioner including all Additional Labour Commissioners, Regional Joint Labour Commissioner’s and District Labour Officers to evaluate the current scenario regarding the working conditions of ISM workers and native workers in the state on COVID back drop. First priority was given to impart awareness and confidence to ISM Workers. Labour Commissioner directed all officers to ensure correctness of the data while entering the details of ISM workers in the spreadsheets provided. Decision was also taken to get details of ISM worker’s travelling in and out of Kerala either by starting registration centre at district railway stations or by seeking railway administration to share the prescribed details with Labour department. Necessary steps were taken to get permission from Divisional Manager of Southern Railway, to collect the data from railway stations of the state. For effective functioning of the Department during this crisis, requested Government to declare Labour Department as essential service and create a monitoring committee at Labour Commissionerate. Also requested Government to conduct exclusive vaccination camps for ISM workers in each district and grant Rs 3 crore from ISM Scheme for the effective containment activities by the Department.
Started helpline/call centers in all districts and along with the Labour Commissionerate call center, working 24×7 to address the grievance of the migrant workers. Adequate numbers of multilingual personnel have been deployed in the call centers to converse with the workers and to address their grievances. The Department arranged call centers at 14 district offices with support persons having multi linguistic capabilities to provide adequate help and support to the migrant workers. Circulars/directions issued to all Department officials for managing the functioning of control rooms, containment activities, providing awareness to ISM Workers, Distributing protective measures etc.