How to bridge India's tech-induced skill gap
The world stands on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, powered by a wide range of new technology breakthroughs—Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, advanced robotics, Internet of Things, cloud computing and 3D printing—and the revolution is expected to result in major changes in the labour market globally by reducing the demand for middle-skilled workers doing repetitive tasks, and increasing the demand for more highly-skilled workers and also low-skilled workers doing non-routine work.
 
While many developed countries, such as the US, Japan and several European economies, are already experiencing this labour market polarisation, the market is also hollowing out in many developing countries—although at a rate slower than the developed world (World Development Report, 2016).
 
In India's case, this polarisation can be seen in the organised manufacturing sector, where the share of high-skilled occupations in total manufacturing employment increased by more than three percentage points, while the share of middle-skilled jobs decreased by 6.3 percentage points from 1993-94 to 2011-12. Looking at the impact of technological progress on various manufacturing industries in India, capital-intensive industries—automobile manufacturing, for instance—have a greater probability of adopting advanced automation and robotic technologies, compared to the labor-intensive manufacturing industries such as textile, apparel, leather, and footwear, and paper manufacturers.
 
Further, in the services sector, particularly in the IT sector, e-commerce, banking and financial services and health care services, there is a huge potential for automation technologies, which would increase the demand for skilled workers and reduce the demand for middle-skilled workers.
 
However, in India, over 80 percent of the working population is engaged in low-skilled jobs in the unorganised sector. These workers aspire to join the middle-skilled workforce in the organised sector to raise themselves from poverty. However, the changing nature of work due to technology advancements in the organised sector prevents their upward mobility and any improvement in their incomes.
 
Addressing the challenges induced by technological advancements requires reforms in India's higher education system. The institutes of higher learning should redesign the course curriculum by understanding the key market transitions amidst the technological advancements. This would enable the country to create a workforce which could be placed in the positions demanded by the companies in the digital era and thus bridge the skill gap in the labour market.
 
However, looking at the current state of higher education in India, one can perceive that it is not just the quality of the system which needs to be improved, there is also much to be done in terms of the number of students enrolled in institutes of higher learning and heterogeneity existing in access to higher education based on socio-economic status, gender and also region. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in tertiary education in India is 26.9 per cent, which is lower than that of China (48.4 per cent), Indonesia (27.9 per cent) and the Philippines (35.3 per cent), among others.
 
Further, the GER in India for the male population is 26.3 per cent and 25.4 per cent for females. The GER also varies across different social groups. For the Scheduled Castes it is 21.8 per cent and 15.9 percent for the Scheduled Tribes.
 
There are also wide variations in the number of colleges for higher education across different states in India, with the lowest number of seven colleges in Bihar for every 0.1 million of eligible population to 51 in Telangana and Karnataka. The top eight states in terms of highest number of colleges in India are Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh, which have 28 or more colleges per 0.1 million of the population.
 
The disparity in the distribution of the colleges is also seen across different districts in these states, with the top 50 districts having about 32.6 per cent of the colleges.
 
In addition to the inequalities existing in the access to institutions for higher education, another issue with the state of higher learning in India is that a majority of the students are enrolled in undergraduate programmes, compared to masters and the doctoral programmes. Moreover, at the undergraduate level, there is a low pass out rate of the students—of the 2,90,16,350 students enrolled, the number of pass outs have been 64,19,639 in 2017.
 
Given that the Indian system of higher education faces multiple challenges of low gross enrollment in its colleges and universities, with most students settling on undergraduate studies, along with various socio-economic inequalities existing in access to higher learning, it is imperative for the country to address these issues.
 
Further, emphasis must be given on increasing the number of students who pass out of colleges/universities, along with increasing enrollment numbers.
 
The technology-induced skill gap which the Indian economy is facing across its different sectors is bound to increase with the given higher education system. The change has to be brought from outside the existing constructs. Improvement in the teaching methodology from the traditional lecture courses, accreditation of online courses and redesigning the course curriculum to make it industry-relevant are some of the ways the technology-led changes in the labor market can be dealt with.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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Here is How Tenders Are Rigged in India
Licence quota raj dominates the Indian drone market, allowing a select cabal of companies (or cronies) to exclusively bid for government tenders. We will examine one such tender in detail and point out all the flaws that ultimately result in the taxpayer getting a substandard system at an inflated cost.
 
The tender we will examine is one issued by “Forest Survey of India”, which comes under ministry of environment, forest and climate change. (The tender notice is at the end of this article.)
 
Let us examine the technical specifications first…
Page-2 of the tender specifies that they give the full form of UAV in brackets
 
1) A professional survey grade UAV
2) A standard survey grade UAV
 
Appendix-I, Appendix-IA (pages 16-19) list out the specifications, which are standard. There is nothing drastically different between these two variants other than size and type of camera. 
 
The price breakup should be approximately in this range…
 
a) The drone with peripherals (other than camera) should cost around Rs5 lakh-Rs7 lakh (This includes the hassles of filling government tenders)
b) Multi-spectral camera for ‘professional grade UAV’ should be around Rs5 lakh-Rs6 lakh 
c) Regular camera for at most Rs1 lakh
d) Cost of training their personnel Rs2 lakh-Rs3 lakh
 
But the tender will probably get quotations, which are several magnitudes higher (around three to five times above the prices). Let us examine why this occurs...
 
Regulatory Capture: The Definition
 
Regulatory agencies may come to be dominated by the industries or interests they are charged with regulating. The result is that the agency, which is charged with acting in the public interest, instead acts in ways that benefit the industry it is supposed to be regulating.
 
Let us look at the ‘necessary qualifications’ of the bidder(s) listed as eligibility criteria on pages 3-7 (ironically these are longer than the technical specifications)
 
Item no 1.3.2 on page-4 states: 
“All Indian original equipment manufacturer (OEM) should have industrial licence for manufacturing of Drone/UAV”
 
It is an open secret that these licences are not issued and it is a vested cabal, which has cornered most of the ‘licences’. So this rules out a majority of companies and prevents a fair competition.
 
My previous articles on how India killed it’s drone industry and is all set to become a personal fiefdom of cronies and cheap imports, talks about this aspect.
 
All other eligibility criteria such as item number 1.3.1 (three years sales experience in UAVs) and 1.3.7 (ISO certification) are designed to further skew the field in favour of existing licence holders (item number 1.3.2). 
 
It will be most curious to know, who wins the above tender and at what price. 
 
In the meantime, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) refuses to issue licences for manufacture of civilian drones. Manufacture of military drones, which can be used for civil applications as well, however, requires an industrial licence that is a very lengthy process and takes one to an 'inter-ministerial' group.
 
One cannot know a priori, whether this policy is designed out of ignorance or malfeasance, but it is obvious that such terms and practices are violative of Article-16 of the constitution, which guarantees equal opportunities. A public interest litigation (PIL) will, or should be, filed on this point.
 
Ultimately, the price for this cronyism is paid by the taxpayers, who will get a substandard product at an inflated cost.
 
 
(Srinath Mallikarjunan is founder of Unmanned Dynamics, an advanced guidance system company)
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SC opens Sabarimala gates to women aged 10-50
The Supreme Court on Friday opened the gates of the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala dedicated to Lord Ayyappa to the women in the age group of 10-50, saying it was violative of their fundamental rights and constitutional guarantees.
 
In a majority 4:1 judgment, the top court also read down the provision of Kerala laws that protected the prohibition and said it could not be covered under practices essential and integral to religious practice. 
 
Justice Indu Malhotra, the only woman judge in the five-judges bench, who gave a dissenting judgment.
 
Chief Justice Dipak Misra reading out the judgment also on behalf of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, said that subversion of women's rights under the garb of physiological phenomenon cannot be allowed.
 
"All devotees are equal and there cannot be any discrimination on the basis of gender," Misra said.
 
Justice Rohinton F. Nariman in a separate but concurring judgment said that people of all faiths visit the temples -- worshipers are not of separate denomination.
 
"Religion cannot become a cover to exclude and deny women their right to worship," Justice D.Y. Chandrachud also said in a separate but concurring judgment.
 
Holding the Sabarimala temple is not a denominational temple peculiar to any sect, the court said that the Ayyappa temple belongs to Hindus and does not constitute a separate entity. 
 
The apex court also read down the provision of Kerala laws that protected the practice of prohibiting the entry of women in the age group of 10 to 50 years.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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