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PF withdrawal allowed for housing, health

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PF withdrawal allowed for housing, health

NEW DELHI: The labour ministry on Monday eased the planned restriction on withdrawal of contribution to the employees' provident fund.

It said withdrawal can be allowed for housing, major medical treatment for self and family members, medical, dental and engineering education of children, and for their marriage.

The relaxation has also been extended to members who have joined an establishment belonging to or under the central or state government, and become a member of contributory provident fund or old age pension. These norms will come into effect from August.

The amendments were made after labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya received representations from trade unions. A government release said the ministry had decided to pay the full accumulations to the credit of a member, including interest up to the date of payment, if he or she fulfils any of the above-mentioned conditions. In February, the ministry had said PF subscribers would not be able to withdraw their provident fund after attaining the age of 54 years, and will have to wait till they are 58 years old.


Crisis of skills

Sudip Chakraborty
Human and physical capital are at the core of a nation’s economic prosperity. Human beings do not automatically grow as human capital. They must constitute productive manpower through education and healthcare. Thus education helps in the formation of human capital. Like investment in physical capital to expand business and industry, education is also an investment to produce a skilled labour force for the economy. 
The significance of a skilled labour force has been enhanced considerably in the contemporary world that tends to move towards a knowledge economy. Workers must prepare themselves to face the challenges of modern technology to survive and prosper in an increasingly globalized world. Skilled manpower can make a remarkable difference. An Asian country, bereft of nature’s bounty and exposed to periodic earthquakes and devastated by atom bombs dropped on its soil, could compete with the West in science and technology. 
The Land of the Rising Sun showed us light. The developing world learned the message from Japan, specifically that economic prosperity was not the prerogative of the Western nations. Japan’s prosperity during the last century has been a topic of interest in the study of development economics. According to Amartya Sen’s thesis, Japan’s spectacular success was embedded in its initial investment in human capital and free and compulsory quality education for all Japanese children.
It was only in 2009 that India toed the Japanese line after more than a century. The Right to Education Act came into effect. More and more children are now attending school. There has been a marked improvement in enrolment, attendance and retention in the primary level. But there is a rather disconcerting side to the coin. Children are learning very little. There has been a trade-off in terms of quality and quantity. Those who complete primary education are expected to acquire knowledge in the three Rs -- reading, writing and arithmetic. Unfortunately learning outcomes have been pathetic in India. 
A reputed organization named Pratham conducts a survey on primary education. It publishes the Annual Survey on Education Report (ASER) in order to assess both quantity and quality in the sphere of primary education. The report for 2014 reveals that 25 per cent of Class 8 students cannot read a Class 2-level text. Nearly 20 per cent of the children studying in Class 2 cannot recognise any number. Only 26 per cent of those studying in Class 5 can work out a simple division in arithmetic. These are just random examples drawn from the shocking data on skill attainment at the level of basic education. Years of schooling of a child has little or nothing to do with skill attainment. The report bears out this disconnect. The journey of an Indian child from primary to higher education via the secondary level is marked by the ‘missing skill’ syndrome. The learners hardly pick up appropriate skills for employment in modern industry and services. 
Yet our Prime Minister has coined the ‘Make in India’ slogan. His pledge to turn India into a ‘global manufacturing hub’ sounds exciting, but how will he accomplish the task? Will global manufacturers come to India with truckloads of skilled workers from foreign countries? The eventual outcome can be disastrous -- there could be a loss of jobs instead of employment generation. The other risk is the outflow of remittances. China is a global factory because its workers are skilled to take up jobs in the modern manufacturing sector that caters to the world market. Its education system focuses on the development of skills. We, Indians, take pride in producing millions of unskilled graduates in general subjects year after year. 

Let us examine the comparative statistics between China and India. A few years back, 29 million Chinese youth received higher education compared to India’s 26 million. However, among the higher education participants, 14.96 million Chinese students received vocational education, against 4 million Indian students. We produce more non-technical manpower than China does. Even India’s technical graduates are by and large unskilled and unemployable. The NASSCOM report states that 83 per cent of our engineering graduates are unfit for employment. 

The most crucial factor is whether India can reap its ‘demographic dividend’. It has been remarked that China is aging, the industrial west is already aged... but India is young. According to the latest census figures, more than 500 million people in India are below 25 years at this juncture. But global manufacturers do not seek unskilled youth. 
It is shocking to learn that Reliance Industry had engaged 40,000 skilled workers from outside India for its Jamnagar project. Another company DLF had plans to induct 20,000 carpenters and electricians from West Asia. Demographic dividend is set to elude India if we do not immediately focus on skills, competence and quality in education.
The Union budget presented in February provides for a regulatory architecture for ten public and ten private entities to help them emerge as world class institutes. But the budget does not prioritize the imperative to improve skills that can fetch employment. The scope for dividend must not be an inherent quality of those churned out only by world class institutes.
The writer is former Fulbright Scholar and currently Associate Professor, Ananda Chandra College, Jalpaiguri, in West Bengal.


HINDU, APR 16, 2016

Govt. told to wrap up work by June 30 on Anna Library
Taking a serious view of a report filed by a two-member advocate commissioners team highlighting various deficiencies in the functioning of the Anna Centenary Library here, the Madras High Court on Friday set June 30 as the cut-off date for the State Government to set right the deficiencies. “The report submitted by the two-member commission shows still there are number of deficiencies,” the First Bench of Chief Justice S.K. Kaul and M.M. Sundresh observed while rejecting an earlier submission by Additional Advocate General that everything had been set right at the library.

In a public interest litigation petition filed in the High Court, S.T. Manonmani, the petitioner, had alleged that the library was not being maintained properly by the government and sought a direction to the authorities concerned to improve the basic facilities in the library and ensure its proper maintenance.

Passing interim directions on the petition, the court had called upon the authorities to set right the deficiencies. During a recent hearing, the Additional Advocate General had submitted that all directions of the court pertaining to the maintenance of the library had been complied with. However, the petitioner challenged the submission claiming that the toilets were poorly maintained and the computers were not functional.

He also alleged that over 50 posts including that of the Chief Librarian and Information Officer were vacant. Considering his submissions, the court directed a two-member commission to inspect the library and file a report.

On Friday, the judges sought to know from the Additional Advocate General a cut-off date by which nothing would be left to be done further. Following this, the State government submitted that all the deficiencies in improving amenities at the library would be addressed by June 30 as per the court’s directions. Recording this, the court adjourned the case for compliance.



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