NSDC exits may have been skills development ministry’s call

Three government officials said the departures happened by design, at the skills development ministry's insistence

New Delhi: The departure of the two top executives at the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) may have been prompted by the skills development ministry’s unhappiness at the functioning of the entity tasked with building a job-ready workforce for industry.

On Tuesday, the board of NSDC accepted the resignations of managing director and chief executive officer Dilip Chenoy and chief operating officer Atul Bhatnagar.

On the face of it, the departures seemed normal.

“Dilip Chenoy... has been an able leader through NSDC’s initial leg of the skilling mission. And as the organisation prepares to enter its next phase of growth, Dilip has decided to step down from this position. He and Atul Bhatnagar... have submitted their resignations to the board, which has been accepted at the board meeting today," NSDC said in a statement.

The skills development ministry, in a separate statement, said that it is “thankful to the NSDC team and its partners for the work done so far and look upon them to continue to partner the ministry in achieving the Skill India Mission".

Neither statement gave a reason for the exits.

Both Chenoy and Bhatnagar had put in their papers last week.

Three government officials involved in the matter said the departures happened by design, at the skills development ministry’s insistence, and that NSDC could see even more departures in the next few months as it is restructured.

Chenoy and Bhatnagar did not respond to calls made to their mobile phones and text messages sent to them.

The three officials, none of whom wished to be identified, said the restructuring has been made necessary by the need to have more accountability, meet the aspirations of young people who want to be trained and get jobs, increase the quality of skills development training and increase alignment between the ministry and NSDC.

That last may have been caused by differences on how NSDC should function. It currently provides finance to for-profit skills development organizations.

“NSDC, over the last five years, has literally become a provider of soft loans to many skills development organisations. The ministry is now wondering why tax-payer money should subsidize for-profit companies," said one of the officials cited above.

Indeed, because public money was being used for this reason, Sunil Arora, the former skills development secretary, said in a June interview that the ministry had brought NSDC under the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. “My point is: if it is spending public money, then it has to be accountable,. he said.

Since 2010, NSDC has been allotted around 4,000 crore, of which nearly 1,000 crore has been disbursed to private companies and non-governmental organizations working in the area of skills development.

A second official said that while NSDC was supposed to find jobs for at least 70% of those getting trained by its partners, it hadn’t been able to do this.

According to NSDC’s website, the body has trained 5.51 million people in last six years but has placed only 2.35 million trainees in jobs. That’s a 42.6% hit rate.

“There is a lot of scope for improvement and the government is striving to give enough attention to skill and jobs," skills development minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

The third official said the ministry has been telling NSDC to get its act together for some time. The government wants the 1,500 crore Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), a skills development programme, to be successful. It is worried that this initiative will meet the same fate as the STAR (Standard Training Assessment and Reward) scheme unveiled by the previous government and implemented by NSDC.

A government report has found fault with the STAR scheme on several counts, Mint reported in April. STAR offered a financial incentive to school dropouts to acquire new skills, but the report said that “of those who got their results, only 24% have received certificates and less than 18% have received monetary rewards. This is despite the fact that 80% candidates reported having bank accounts, and 91.3% stated they had Aadhaar numbers".

On Tuesday, after it accepted the resignations of the two NSDC executives, the skills development ministry met to discuss PMKVY.

The NSDC board, headed by former Tata Consultancy Services Ltd CEO S. Ramadorai, is yet to find replacements for Chenoy and Bhatnagar.

India wants to build a skilled workforce of some 500 million by 2022.

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