Sunday, August 16th, 2020

The reforms in education and skill development sectors were already underway : Prime Minister

INVC,, Delhi,, The Prime Minister chaired the meeting of the Council on Trade and Industry. In his address to the council he, while noting that the economic reforms have helped the country, stated that the Government will continue down the road of economic reforms, even if the process is gradual; for, building a consensus for economic and social change is crucial. He stated that the Government plans to push ahead on reforms in key areas, especially those aimed at fiscal consolidation, while ensuring a strong expansion in investment in infrastructure, taxation, especially the introduction of a Goods and Services Tax and the financial sector. He said the reforms in education and skill development sectors were already underway. The Prime Minister emphasized the need for a broad agenda for reforms for financing infrastructure development.  He outlined the challenges of rising crude, food and commodity prices, international political uncertainties and the impact of natural disasters that the economy faces today.  He assured that the Government was keenly aware of these challenges and the concerns of the industry.  He spoke of the need for aggressive acquisition of assets abroad, stronger research and development, strengthening international diplomacy, protecting the interests of the country at the WTO and making available good quality infrastructure in the country and assured that the Government was alive to these needs and was taking effective measures. While speaking of the need for every sector in the economy to work towards inclusion, the Prime Minister lauded the increasing engagement of corporate sector with the rural economy. He spoke of the need to consolidate the linkages between rural and urban sectors, agriculture and manufacturing sectors and regions.   The Prime Minister reaffirmed the commitment of the Government to provide an environment conducive to the growth of the corporate sector.  He said that he was aware of the perception of governance and ethical deficit in public life and stated that Government was committed to improving the quality of governance and enhancing transparency, probity and integrity in public life. Government is considering all measures, including legislative and administrative, to tackle corruption and improve transparency. Comprehensive measures have been launched to strengthen institutions to combat the menace of black money and corruption. A Group of Ministers has been entrusted the task of considering issues relating to enunciation of public procurement standards, formulation of a public procurement policy, review and abolition of discretionary powers enjoyed by Ministers, introduction of an open and competitive system for the use of natural resources.   The Prime Minister said that ethical and responsible behaviour needs to become the cornerstone of public and corporate behaviour, as indeed of our national outlook. He said the Government was totally committed to ensuring that faith of the public is restored in governance and probity of the highest order is restored in public life, and we have already taken action against powerful and entrenched individuals. Systems will be put in place to prevent recurrence of incidences of corruption and malfeasance. He also called upon the corporate sector to work towards improving the ethical standards in corporate governance.   The industry leaders reaffirmed their commitment to work in partnership with Government particularly in areas of inclusive growth, skill development and job creation and environmental protection.   The sub-committees of the Council that had worked on the following five thematic areas presented their reports to the Council:   i.                   Financial inclusion, ii.                 Tribal area development, iii.              Public private partnerships in R&D, iv.              Agricultural production and food security, and v.                 Skill development, affirmative action and corporate social responsibility.   On behalf of the sub-committees presentations were made by Shri Ratan Tata, Smt. Chanda Kochhar, Shri Jamshed Godrej, Dr. A.S. Ganguly and Shri S.K. Munjal.   The Prime Minister thanked the industry leaders for devoting their valuable time to the deliberations of the sub-committees and the useful recommendations made by them. He said that the Government will carefully study the recommendations and ensure that public policies are suitably modified wherever feasible to achieve the desired outcomes. He also called upon the members of Council from the corporate sector work towards implementation of the recommendations, in cooperation with the Government.   While the Government and the industry will work in partnership and study all the recommendations of the sub-committee and work towards their implementation, wherever feasible, the following recommendations would be prioritized for immediate focused attention:   (i)      Agriculture, food production and food security: The sub-committee recommended that a comprehensive package of  initiatives and measures should be implemented for meeting the envisaged demand for food in 2020, which include liberalising procurement of agricultural commodities, trading, storage and transportation, encouraging private investment in agriculture value chain, reforming minimum support price regime, developing the reach and effectiveness of rural credit, agriculture insurance, establishment of special agriculture zones and undertaking focussed interventions for pulses and oilseeds. The Government is already implementing several measures towards the achievement of the above recommended reforms. The industry will hasten its process of engagement with the agricultural sector and work towards its development, particularly in the areas of agricultural inputs, technology, extension and the total value chain from farm gate to the consumer. (ii)             Public Private Partnerships especially in R & D: The sub-committee recommended (a) to develop new relationship models and guiding principles for promotion of Public-Private Partnership for R&D based on global best practices and broaden the horizon for public sector R&D professionals; and (b) To establish a public fund for investments into PPP projects for R&D in five identified sectors for formulation and implementation of a few path breaking major national projects involving major technological challenges through existing structures. The Government is committed to encouraging investment in R & D with the involvement of the industry and exploring avenues for PPP in R&D and clean energy sectors. The Council Members said that the industry was committed to increasing investments in R&D and engaging with the Government and educational and research institutions in promotion of R & D through Public Private Partnerships. (iii) Tribal Area Development: The subcommittee has, among other things, recommended that the control of tribal people over Minor Forest Produce (MFP) should be made effective by measures such as (a) definition and notification of MFP by the state governments, as per the Forest Rights Act, (b) announcement of minimum support prices (MSP) for MFPs and (c) deployment of an effective mechanism for ensuring fair prices to collectors of MFP. The Government is committed to the effective realization of rights of tribal people and their empowerment through the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, PESA and the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation Act. The Forest Rights Act is a significant tool for empowerment of tribals and other traditional forest dwellers. The Government is aware of the issues relating to the implementation of the Act and is considering various measures to strengthen its implementation. The Members of Council from the industry expressed their commitment to the inclusive agenda of involving the tribal people in the process of growth and development and partnering with the government and local administrations in finding markets for MFP and creating a value chain. (iv)           Financial Inclusion: The sub-committee has recommended, among other recommendations, allowing of ‘for profit’ entities to be Business Correspondents, allowing of low value remittances by non-banking players and sharing of common infrastructure. The Government has already taken significant steps in the direction of financial inclusion: The ‘Swabhimaan’ programme has been launched for which connectivity has been provided this year to around 73,000 habitations.  This will facilitate remittances across banks in any part of the country seamlessly.  This has also enabled deposit of MNREGA wages to the beneficiaries in the no frills bank accounts opened by them for this purpose.  In future, all government payments including subsidies can be paid through such no frills accounts. Through the involvement of non-profit entities serving as Business Correspondents the ramping up of the identification and entrusting the job of Business Correspondents has increased exponentially.  This has enabled banks to roll out the financial inclusion programme at a significant pace and at the same time ensuring control over the operations. The Council Members expressed the commitment of the industry to expand its engagement with non-included sectors and people in order to further financial inclusion. (v)             Skill Development, Affirmative Action and Corporate Social Responsibility:  The sub-committee recommends to (a)  encourage industrial houses to set up own training institutes/take up existing centres under PPP, and (b) adopt innovative ways to remodel apprenticeship programme with industry involvement, and as part of affirmative action and corporate social responsibility to affirm that: (i)  no SC/ST trainee would be turned away by any skill development centre, and (ii)   in vendor development, preference would be given to SC/ST entrepreneurs. The Government is already implementing a Skill Development Initiative which derives its inspiration from the Prime Minister’s National Council on Skill Development. The members of the Council felt that the private sector had an important role to play in skill development and expressed their commitment to implementation of the recommendations of the sub-committee and to work with the Government’s Skill Development Initiative. ***

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