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After considerable delay due to the coronavirus outbreak, the third phase of the nationwide skill mission kicks off on Friday, aiming to train 800,000 people in localized, demand-driven skills. The government has set aside 950 crore for this phase of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), which will go live in all but five states and Union territories including West Bengal, where either election-related rules or lockdown restrictions are in place.

“Covid-19 has delayed the roll-out by several months; what we are now doing is day one execution schedule. The planning and back-end work is over with support from state and district administrations," Praveen Kumar, secretary, skill development and entrepreneurship said.

Also Read | Covid far from over in some states

Training will be executed across 600 districts by 729 Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendras, hundreds of empaneled training centres, private partners of National Skill Development Corp., and more than 200 industrial training institutes (ITIs). This time, the focus is on demand-driven skills instead of supply-driven as in the last six years.

The first phase of PMKV was introduced in 2015, and the second phase in 2016, which ran its course by 31 March 2020.

However, the mission will need to wait for the next finance commission report to be tabled in Parliament and government’s acceptance of it “to expand its time frame beyond one year ending 31 March 2021".

“Generally, skills mission has a longer time frame and higher allocation. The last skills mission (PMKVY-2) had a 12,000 crore budget for four years. But till the time the 15th Finance Commission report is tabled in the Parliament and government announces its acceptance and table its action plan, it will be tough for this to expand," a government official said, when asked why the third phase is being rolled out at the fag end of the fiscal year with effectively two and half months left for execution.

Effectively, the target to achieve one year of work in the limited time will lead to non-achievement of the skill training goals and make way for a clear rollover of the scheme to next financial year.

“It’s a possibility, but we have to wait for that. There is a possibility of higher allocation. The government may also announce expansion of it as a three- to four-year scheme in the next financial year," the official cited above said on condition of anonymity.

The structure of PMKVY-3 has undergone considerable changes, with district administrations playing a bigger role in deciding training demand, job matching and quality monitoring, unlike the previous centralized model when everything was controlled from Delhi.

Among the many reforms proposed, district-level planning and execution has been made the fundamental instrument of implementation process, the skills ministry wrote to district collectors in 2020, Mint reported on 23 November, citing official letters. District administrations will have the power to flag demand-driven skills for deployment in local factories, play a role in jobs matching and jobs mapping, assess demand for jobs linked to training programmes and have the power to monitor outcome.

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