NEEM Does Not Redeem Confidence

NEEM Does Not Redeem Confidence

The weight of experience is not easy to shrug off. Actually it is just impossible to do it. We learn this again and yet again.

We look at any action and institution through the perspective of recent experience.

I am referring to the scheme launched by Government of India – NEEM, which is the acronym for National Employability Enhancement Mission.

The scheme is, like all schemes are, noble in its intention. A Neem Agent is required to be registered. A Neem Agent then can place a trainee [up to 10 Thousand] in industry. Who can they be? Read this:

A person who has completed graduation / diploma or a person pursuing studies leading to graduation / Diploma and registered under NEEM is called a Trainee under NEEM

A person seeking training under NEEM shall be at least 18 years of age and not more than 35 years of age as on the date of registration. [Note the outer limit!]

A person seeking training under NEEM may be either pursuing his or her graduation / diploma in any technical or nontechnical stream or may have discontinued studies of degree or diploma course

This has been interpreted by some to mean that even MBAs [typically from resource-starved institutes] can be engaged as trainees. Actually the definition allows practically anybody to be engaged as a trainee.

The duration can be 24 months. And the Neem scheme has provided a list of 23 industries in which such trainees can be placed. The list covers all important industries.

The Neem trainees are to be paid a salary matching unskilled worker’s minimum wage. And they have to observe the office timings.

Outwardly this scheme appears to be well designed which is supposed to serve its agenda of “offering ‘on the job’ practical training to enhance employability of graduates / diploma holders or students pursuing graduation / diploma to increase their employability.” The problem is that a similar scheme is in vogue in Maharashtra and is grossly misused. Just in case you are not aware of the extent of misuse in the industry, please take a look at my blog post, the link to which is given as a footnote. You will readily see that the scheme in Maharashtra has only fostered gross exploitation of labour which is gleefully engaged in by unscrupulous employers.

The Unions are waking up to this reality. Their contention is that under the Standing Orders there is a classification as Trainee and/ or Apprentice. What would be the status of such Neem trainees? They will work regular hours, they will provide output to the industry. In the eyes of the Union they must be deemed to be employed. Can you imagine a person working regular hours and producing goods or services, for two years, and yet not getting classified as workman? This is the recipe for exploitation. That’s the recent experience.

This is what I wrote in my blog post ‘Training to Exploit’:

In a sense what they provide many persons is not employment, because they are engaged as ‘Trainees’ or ‘Apprentices.’ These schemes are implemented in such a manner that the factories have become big exploitation centres. This is not situation in Pune only; I find it even at Nashik.

I was speaking to production manager of a company. He said, “We take ITI trained persons as well as Diploma Engineers as trainees. They are engaged for one year. They have to leave after one year. But we teach them the Japanese way to manufacturing so they get a job immediately.”

“Do they get a permanent job?” I asked. 

“No,” he said, “They again find employment as trainees. They go to Bosch, Kirloskar, Mahindra & Mahindra, and Bajaj Auto after leaving us. If they are lucky they find a permanent job.”

       *        *        *

And now I learn reliably that the Union in an Engineering Industry has cautioned the management against engaging Neem trainees. They have warned that the Union will go to the Court if they pursue engagement of Neem trainees.

The action per se will appear very anti-Make in India. But as I said earlier, it will appear justified if seen in the light of the experience of ‘trainees.’

We are at an interesting stage. Failure to prevent misuse [or abuse] of schemes which have blessings of the Government will produce counter-productive results.

Remember, our courts are not just courts of law, they are courts of justice too.

Do you get me?

Vivek S Patwardhan

Also see: Training to Exploit