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Skill development scheme for tea tribes under scanner

By Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, June 3 - An ambitious skill development programme launched for the tea tribes in 2012 has come under scanner, with the government directing an investigation on the implementation of the scheme and if it had actually benefitted the targeted section.

The project was launched with the objective to provide vocational training facility to tea tribes. Out of 51 skill development training centres (SDTC), 40 have since been handed over to a firm for operation and maintenance under a PPP mode with effect from September 19, 2012.

Official sources said the finance department has not been informed as to how the scheme has been implemented during 2015-16 and how the training materials procured under the scheme were distributed and the list of trainees to whom these were distributed.

The scheme had come under scrutiny a year before also, with the additional chief secretary of tea tribes welfare department directing an inquiry by the secretary into the purchases made under the scheme during 2014-15 with a direction to submit the report within 10 days. That inquiry did not make any headway, sources said, prompting the finance department to direct a fresh inquiry.

�The tea tribes welfare department should have reviewed the impact of the scheme and the benefits accrued to the targeted section of people during all these years,� a senior official in the finance department told The Assam Tribune.

The tea tribes welfare directorate had signed the MoU with the firm for a long-term lease of 15 years. The duration of the lease has also raised many eyebrows.

According to the MoU, the firm should provide job opportunities to at least 60 per cent of the trainees through on campus recruitment process at the end of the course period. It will also have to make efforts to ensure recruitment of all its trainees at the end of each course.

The benefits the tea tribes people got from the scheme are not clear.

According to the website of the tea tribes welfare directorate, a total 8,421 trainees have been enrolled in different trades in different SDTCs. Of them, 4,270 trainees completed their training in different trades and 2,471 candidates have successfully come out in the National Council of Vocational Training (NCVT) certification test. Some 1,425 trainees out of 2,471, who received NCVT certification, have been offered placement in different flagship companies.

However, according to another document at the tea tribes welfare department, the firm has trained 4,329 boys and 15,665 girls so far, of which 1,672 boys and 3,811 girls have been shown to have got placements which are not even 30 per cent. The directorate does not have documents to confirm if the trainees were actually placed. Many of the trainees were given kits and showed as �self-employed�.

The directorate has now asked the firm to provide details of the trainees and their placement.

�Yes, doubts have been raised if the scheme has served the original purpose or has just become a medium of purchasing and distributing items like sewing machines, plumber sets, etc.,� an official in the tea tribes welfare department said.

The finance department has stopped releasing the dues to the firm. The scheme remains in a suspended state, though not officially.

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