How Sukma Livelihood College has become an instrument of positive change in the district

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The process of setting up the Livelihood College in Sukma, Chhattisgarh is as inspirational as the positive impact it has been creating in the lives of thousands of youth in the region. In this Skill Story, Dr. Ajitendra Kumar, Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellow (PMRDF), posted in Sukma, tells us more about the social hurdles and other challenges they had to overcome in achieving the goal of providing people with dignified and sustainable livelihood opportunities.

About Sukma and its youth

Sukma is definitely one of the most backward districts in Chhattisgarh and it’s been highly naxal affected. Though it is rich in natural resources, it is poorly connected with rest of the world, with hardly any infrastructure and very low telecom penetration, the tribal youth are completely cut off from mainstream development. The primary source of livelihood for the tribals is forest produce and or rain fed crops like rice. And, for those who dropout from schools after 8th or 10th or 12th standard, they don’t see farming as a preferred means of livelihood. This is where the question of alternative livelihoods comes into the picture and we started working on modalities and options to bring training providers or Project Implementation Agencies (PIAs) into the district.

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Attracting PIAs to the district

This is a big challenge. Since the PIAs are given pan-India targets as well as district wise targets like training 5000 or 10000 people across India, they prefer places where they can get the candidates easily and where they are assured of good infrastructure and other facilities.  Since the PIAs would not come to Sukma by choice, the district administration has taken special efforts and had series of talks with these agencies, and offered them support in terms of good infrastructure, security and other services to create a conducive environment for offering courses in training and skill development.

Mobilizing and convincing the youth

The District Administration plays a crucial role in mobilization by deputing officials at every level, right from the village to gram panchayat to block levels. Since, these are sensitive areas, initially people were skeptical; they thought we were mobilizing people to join police forces. There was resistance and it was difficult to convince them. But, as we started to gain credibility and win their trust, large number of youths were enrolling in the livelihood college. We partnered with the District Education Department to identify dropouts and organized events like Yuva Mahoustav and Career Melas to get their attention and inform them about the benefits of skilling.

Operations and management

The District Magistrate leads and guides all our initiatives and facilitates smooth functioning of the college. We offer two types of programs. One is placement-linked program partnering with PIAs like ILFS with funding from the Government of India. The other is when the district administration acts like a PIA and converge funds from different sources like Tribal Welfare Department, NRLM,  DDU- GKY and the Gram Panchayat and function as an integrated training cell to impart skill development courses. This creates a platform for filling the skill gaps with the help of trainers recruited by the district administration.

How the programs work: An example from stitching, garment making

The program is funded by GOI through its departments, earlier it was Ministry of Rural Development and NRLM Special skills project, and currently it is under the Ministry of Textiles. The Project Implementation Agency (PIA) plays a key role in facilitating training and has a tie-up with the industry for placement. After training for initial 45 days to 60 days, trainees are placed into the industry – first three months as on-the-job-trainees, after which they are placed in different cities.

Livelihood College Sukma Tailoring

The challenge of making skill development aspirational

The other side of skill development and training is the need to migrate and relocate to places where there are jobs. Most of the youth have their own inhibitions for moving out in search of employment. This fear and anxiety keeps them restricted to the district. Livelihood College opens up this avenue for exploring the world outside.

During admission and counselling, we tell them to take up the jobs in the cities as a paid picnic and explore how they can learn new skills and save money. They get convinced when we tell them to come back to the district and start their own business. And, interacting with most of the youths who come back during vacations, is such a treat. You can’t imagine how they get transformed; their confidence levels go up. For example, one of the girls is thinking of moving into fashion designing. Their aspirations and dreams start taking shape. I believe this is what livelihood college stands for, “empowering youth beyond jobs and discovering their vision for life”.

Training follow up and self employment options

We are creating various self-employment options for those who want avoid migration and to pursue working in the district. Particularly for women, since safety issues need to be addressed if they have to travel. We enable employment through production units; they can take up dress making and other trades. For example, they stitch dresses for Anganwadi students, we provide them the sewing machines. When they come with children, we have a play school. Some of them have set up, beauty parlours in their homes – this is another self revenue generation model.

Other self employment schemes

We have multi-pronged approach; we not only have placement linked training, we also support a wide range of trades that ensure sustained livelihood. These include AC repairing, mobile phone repairing, plumbing, masonry, bike repairing and so on. Masonry is very important skill, required now, because there is lot of construction happening in the district. We understand that computers provide self employment and job opportunities, hence we offer basic training in computers, desk top publishing, diploma in computer application, this is also a mandatory requirement for government jobs.

What is the effect of national campaigns and schemes like PMKVY and Skill India?

Government schemes and campaigns help in creating awareness and informing the people. The actual onus is on the district administration to execute the project and achieve the goals. Dedicated agenda from the government helps in creating a positive impact and these things get streamlined when the district administration starts implementing them. I’m sure we at Sukma are on the right path in making a difference in the lives of these youth.

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