After having survived the potholes and bumps for quite a distance on Nagpur-Chhindwara highway the first surprise – a pleasant one for that matter – you get after the arrival of Chhindwara border post is that the road turns silky-smooth. Surrounded by a long stretch of forest, the road with no broken edges and chuckholes, snakes around green hills and streams adding value to a surreal setting Chhindwara has been endowed with. The magic– as far as road network is concerned – continues right through Chhindwara city and the rural expanse of the district. Drive through any of the 11 blocks and 12 tehsils and the remotest of interiors in the district and you may still find the motorways decent.
Besides the road network, the other distinct feature that hog Chhindwara’s landscape as well as skyscape that gives it an identity outside Madhya Pradesh, particularly in New Delhi, is Union Minister for Urban Development Kamal Nath. His countenance is plastered all over the place literally as well as figuratively. Nath, who has represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha for nine times, has over the years become synonymous with Chhindwara and the developmental projects which have been initiated over the years or are expected to be operational in near future.
The work is on to lay a broad gauge line between Chhindwara and Nagpur (currently the two cities are connected through a narrow gauge line). Once that happens, Chhindwara could become a North-South railway hub
Be it the literacy rate, rural electrification, laying of roads or industrialisation, Chhindwara figures among the top districts in Madhya Pradesh. It has made rapid strides in all three spheres of inclusion – social, financial and digital. More than anything else, the district has realised the importance of skill development and added a number of premier skills training institutes in recent years.
The road network has impacted Chhindwara in a huge way. So much so that many small hamlets have mushroomed along the roads in recent times in the countryside as the roads lead to better connectivity. Many of the villages have no four wheelers and very few bikes yet they have tarred roads laid under Prime Minister Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY). The road infrastructure is one of the reasons why large industries have set up shop in and around Chhindwara. Ask anybody in the city or the interiors what has changed in Chhindwara’s landscape in last few decades and road construction is the first thing they tom-tom about.
“Roads have been constructed, ponds have been dug up and schools, colleges and engineering institutes have been opened,” says Hitesh Sahu, a youth from village Khami in Amarwara block of Chhindwara, when asked what has changed in last two decades. Ramchand Nagvanshi, a farmer in Pipariya town, is happy for the smooth roads. So is Balraj Patel, Sarpanch of Patnia village in Amarwara. Sahu, a student of B.Com. 2nd year, is hopeful that the new power plants – Adani thermal power plant and SKS power plant which will be supplied water from a dam on Pench River – will fulfill electricity needs of the district. Presently, power is rationed in Chhindwara city, its towns and rural sectors. Chhindwara is one of the few districts in Madhya Pradesh which have achieved over 99 per cent rural electrification.
Recently Union Road and Transport Minister C P Joshi laid foundation of two national highways – Chhindwara-Seoni highway and Narsinghpur-Chhindwara-Saoner. Not only would the highways give further wings to transport in the region but also encourage investment and entrepreneurship in the city. “The road project is not about Rs 16 billion. It is about investment in the district. No doubt roads will be built. But that is one part of the story. It will generate employment and self-employment opportunities. They are bigger than the road itself,” claims Nath. In an exclusive interaction with Inclusion, the Union Minister elaborates that ‘all basic material (to be used in road construction) will be from Chhindwara. Only the tar will be brought from outside. All the subsidiary equipments like the trucks, tractors and JCBs will be local. This generates economic activity. At least 500 people will be employed directly’. Besides this, the road construction, according to Kamal Nath, will encourage people to set up repair shops and dhabas etc. “It will throw up a lot of entrepreneurs,” he avers.
Over the years Chhindwara has got a broad gauge railway line and even its own train for Delhi. Now the work is on to lay a broad gauge line between Chhindwara and Nagpur (currently the two cities are connected through a narrow gauge line). Once that happens, Chhindwara could become a North-South railway hub.
This is one area where Chhindwara is right there on top. Nath says work on skill development started in 1980 when he was first elected to the Lok Sabha. “It (employment generation and skill development) basically started with having adequate primary schools, middle schools, colleges. That was phase I. We have had phase II and phase III and many phases to go through,” he asserts.
Today the district is known as an education hub housing more schools, colleges, ITIs (Industrial Training Institutes), polytechnics, engineering institutes than any other district in its neighbourhood. It has more than 3,500 primary and secondary schools, 25 colleges including a government PG college, 15 ITIs (3 government ITIs and rest private) and numerous other training institutes. Moreover, it has many skill development institutes where students who pass out from schools and ITIs can further hone their skills into JCB operation, automobile repair, basic IT, welding, grinding, software, hardware, BPO operation, apparel design etc. A few of these institutes are located right in the centre of rural Chhindwara making it possible for the rural youths to get trained and employed right at their native place.
Chhindwara has many skill development institutes where students who pass out from schools and ITIs can hone their skills into JCB operation, automobile repair, basic IT, welding, grinding, software, hardware, and BPO operation
Team Inclusion visited the skill development institutes in Chhindwara to have a good look at the training and placement system there. It started off with CII (Confederation of Indian Industries) National Centre for Skill Development, which was set up in Chhindwara in September 2008 under CII’s initiative to make India the skills capital of the world.
The Centre, located in Chhindwara city in a double storied building belonging to Western Coalfields Limited, has trained over a thousand youth till now as backhoe loader operator, welder, fitter, grinder and bar bender. Initially, the training was provided by Punj Lloyd, L&T, Toyota and JCB. L&T and Punj Lloyd withdrew after a while. The one-month duration course involves 20 per cent theory and 80 per cent practical. Ideally, the strength of each batch in JCB, set up with a corpus of Rs 5 million, is 30 but the centre is only able to attract on an average 20 students. It gets these students from different ITIs in the district and outside.
Toyota Technical Education Programme, set up with an investment of Rs15 million, which also dovetails courses with ITIs and is part of the CII Institute, started its operation in February 2010. Till now it has trained 18 students in two batches. It has installed imported ultra expensive diesel and petrol engines of Innova and Corolla to familiarise students with the latest engineering inventions.
The CII is also conducting feasibility survey through Skillpro to find out what more courses can be introduced in the centre. The survey would cover around 50 villages to decipher what courses interest the rural youth.
Next destination was Apparel Training & Design Centre (ATDC) which runs various 6-month and one year courses for 10th and 12th pass students from a tribal hostel premises in Chhindwara city. The students from BPL, SC and ST sections are sponsored by BHEL, NTPC, SAIL and other companies. The Centre conducts around eight courses including Apparel Pattern Making (APM), Production Supervision and Quality Control (PSQC), Industrial Sewing Machine Technician (ISMT), Garment Construction Techniques (GCT), Industrial Sewing Machine Operator Basic (ISMO) and Apparel Manufacturing Technology (AMT).
“The road project is not about Rs 16 billion. It is about investment in the district. It will generate employment and self-employment opportunities. They are bigger than the road”Kamal Nath, Union Minister for Urban Development
Not only does the Centre allow girls and boys to find employment, it also opens avenues of advanced education for them in the field of fashion designing. Two of the ATDC Chhindwara students are currently enrolled in National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). Nandini Sahu, a student of APM course, sees a lot of scope in designing. Sweta Raj, another student of APM, finds it fun to design skirts, trousers, tops and jeans. Though fees for the courses are on the higher side (Rs 35,000 for one year diploma and Rs 17,500 for six month course), majority of students are sponsored majorly by central ministries and public sector units (PSUs). Currently out of the total 130 students, 80 students have their fees sponsored.
The Footwear Design & Development Institute (FDDI) is an institute housed in a 20-acre campus on the outskirts of Chhindwara city. Currently the Institute has over 100 students in two batches and plans to increase the strength to 500 in next 5 years. Equipped with state-of-the-art workshops and classrooms and facilities like in-campus hostel, staff quarter, IT centre and library, the institute will conduct diploma and PG diploma courses in Retail Management, Footwear Technology among other subjects. Students from science stream can apply for the courses. The ATDC and the CII Centres are also expected to shift in the vicinity of FDDI once their buildings are complete.
District Learning Centre (DLC) is an institute run by NIIT Foundation for students from rural towns. The Centre, being run from a government building and conducting courses in software, hardware, basic IT, BPO operation etc has trained over 800 students till now out of which 280 were trained in hardware, 250 in software and rest in BPO operation. The Centre set shop in August 2007. English communication and professional life skills are part of each course. The students are partly sponsored by companies like DELL, HCL, Genpact, IBM, Intel, ITC Infotech, Suzlon and Infosys. The Centre is equipped with synchronous learning infrastructure enabling live 2-way video interactive sessions to be run by faculty from Delhi. The duration of the courses ranges from six months to three years (for under graduate students). The Foundation runs a similar second centre in Barukhi, a remote location in Chhindwara district. The Centre has so far trained 114 students.
Apparently Kamal Nath’s different stints in the central government as minister have helped him bring training institutes to the district. “The youngsters from the rural areas cannot run the last mile – the last two miles. The basic thing – how do you go to an interview, how do you speak English – has played a major role in changing vision of the people. We’ve got a very large aspirational population. Skill development is very important,” he says.
It does not need a genius to say that without employment, skill development has no meaning. You can train as many youth as you want but unless the training leads to gainful employment financial inclusion will not come about. What is heartening is that the skill development institutes in Chhindwara emphasise as much on employment as on skills training. But this has not brought about the expected results due to various factors.
JCB India Limited, for instance, has trained 750 odd as backhoe loader operators out of which only 200 have got jobs. Shamim Ansari, who did the JCB course earlier this year, is now earning Rs 6,000 per month in Betul. “Our family is much better placed now. I add to my father’s (employed in WCL) salary,” declares Ansari.
Similarly, the students trained on Toyota’s imported machines are recruited by Toyota dealers in different cities like Bhopal, Indore and Ratlam of Madhya Pradesh and outside the State. Rajkumar, who did the Toyota course after passing out from one of the ITIs in Chhindwara, has been employed with Rajpal Toyota, Bhopal, since October 2010. Originally a native of Uttar Pradesh, Rajkumar, whose father is employed with Western Coalfields in Chhindwara, has already been promoted to second level (Express Maintenance) and will soon be off to Pune to do a training which is expected to get him another promotion.
Ashish Pandey, Business Head – Rajpal Toyota, which recruited three persons from the Toyota Programme recently, says that such employees could rise up to GM (Service Operation) level. Sarvesh Chandravanshi, who is employed with Force Toyota in Dhar district, has a basic of Rs 4,500 and is provided free lodging. Vipin Verma, a Senior Fitter earning Rs 15,000 per month with Nagarjuna Oil Corporation limited near Pondicherry, says that Toyota Programme was very useful and helped him clear the written test at the time of recruitment.
The ATDC centre, which has been in existence since 31st January 2008, boasts of over 50 per cent placements. According to ATDC Principal Dharmendra Singh, out of the 1,500 students who have passed out till now, 700 are employed in Indore, Jaipur, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Gurgaon, Surat and Silwasa.
Predominantly an agricultural economy, Chhindwara has made rapid strides in industrialisation in last few decades. Among the major industries, it has Raymond, Hindustan Uniliver, Spices Park, around 20 mines of Western Coalfields, Superpack Bajaj and Suryavanshi Spinning Mills
The FDDI Chhindwara on the other hand hopes for 100 per cent placement. A FDDI faculty says that the demand for FDDI trained professionals is very high as shoemaking companies like Liberty, Woodland TATA, Reebok, Lifestyle, Adidas, Nike, Lakhani, Relaxo, Shoe Mart, Action, and Westside look to expand their operations to meet the increasing demand for quality footwears.
In the case of District Learning Centres, the sponsors in some cases also happen to be employers. When asked about the largest employer among the sponsors, Anuradha, a teacher at DLC Chhindwara names Infosys (10 students employed). Companies like WIPRO and TCS visit the NIIT Foundation centre to interview students for jobs. Students trained in BPO operations are employed in Rural Shores, a BPO located in Chand, a village about half-an-hour drive from Chhindwara. The BPO, which handles Airtel customers in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh circles, presently employs 135 executives and hopes to expand to 200 executives soon. Ankit Vajpayee, Manager at Rural Shores, claims that most of his executives were trained in the NIIT centres.
“Roads have been constructed, ponds have been dug up and schools, colleges and engineering institutes have been opened”Hitesh Sahu, a youth from village Khami in Amarwara block of Chhindwara
Once the proposed IL&FS Multi-Skills School comes into being, it hopes to train and place 100,000 persons in 5 years in coordination with the ATDC, NIIT, FDDI, ITIs and Polytechnics. To be located at the forest contractors’ association guest house, the School will offer training in BPO operations, animation, oracle database, insurance sales, phone banking, computer accountancy, auto designs, bartending and logistics etc. Inaugurated by Kamal Nath in October 2011, the School is expected to commence training from 15th January, 2012. It would support the skills development programme in Chhindwara by working with the private sector and government agencies across the value chain and improving the effectiveness of the existing initiatives in the district.
The DLC, being run from a government building and conducting courses in software, hardware, basic IT and BPO operation has trained over 800 students till now out of which 280 were trained in hardware, 250 in software and rest in BPO operation
Predominantly an agricultural economy, Chhindwara has made rapid strides in industrialisation in last few decades. Among the major industries, it has Raymond, Hindustan Uniliver, Spices Park, around 20 mines of Western Coalfields, Superpack Bajaj, P. B. M. Polytex, Suryavanshi Spinning Mills and Bhansali Engineerings Polymers. A large chunk of Chhindwara’s working population is employed in these industries.
The Raymond Chhindwara plant, set up in 1991, is a state-of-the-art integrated manufacturing facility located on Chhindwara-Nagpur highway. Built on 100 acres of land, the plant has achieved a record production capacity of 14.65 million meters, making it the single largest integrated worsted suiting unit in the world. The plant not only provides employment to thousands of people but has also given a boost to the local economy as people working in it need food and shelter among other things.
“80 per cent of our people are farmers. We need to provide them better seeds (to increase agricultural yield)”Deepak Saxena, MLA from Chhindwara and a farmer who has just reaped a bumper harvest of maize
Superpack (Bajaj), located at Sausar on Nagpur-Chhindwara highway, was set up in 1984. It has made a name for manufacturing woven products and produces high tech Master batches and plastic compounds for the plastic industries. Hindustan Uniliver factory, which produces Rin washing soap, Surf Excel washing powder, and Wheel washing powder, has been in Chhindwara for ages.
Spices Park, on the other hand, became operational two years back, as part of the series of seven spice parks that are planned by the Spices Board. Consisting of facilities like Garlic Dehydration Plant, Steam Sterlisation Unit, grinding, oleoresin extraction and packaging, the park has since been found unviable due to lack of optimal volume for processing, high operating cost and other O&M issues. IL&FS has stressed on finalisation of a business plan including revenue model to revive the Park. It has emphasised on addressing critical gaps in existing infrastructure and creating adequate backward and forward linkages to integrate the facilities. The company has prepared an extensive revival plan for agro-processing infrastructure in Chhindwara.
Besides these, CLC Textile Park is developing a textile park on 70 acres of land under SITP (Scheme for Integrated Textile Parks) plan of Textile ministry in a village in Pandhurna tehsil of Chhindwara. The park will comprise spinning, ginning and pressing, denim fabric, furnishing fabric units etc and is expected to employ 2,050 people directly and 1,300 indirectly.
In Chhindwara, financial inclusion appears to have become synonymous with Satpura Narmada Kshetriya Gramin Bank (SNKGB), a RRB, sponsored by Central Bank of India (CBI), the lead bank in Chhindwara. The SNKGB has financed 133,206 farmers amounting to Rs 11.65 billion through term loans and 95,958 Kissan Credit Cards. “Today many farmers in Chhindwara’s 1984 villages have tractors and other modern agricultural equipments which not only have made their work easier and less time consuming but also allowed them to earn extra profits,” says M V Tanksale, Chairman & Managing Director, Central Bank.
Be it promotion of renewable energy, providing linkages to Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and housing to poor, the SNKGB is doing quite a bit for financial inclusion. It has adopted a village named Beejadhana for fulfilling 100 per cent credit to the villagers. It is entering into a tie up with an NGO for formation and linkage of 5,000 SHGs in Chhindwara and Seoni districts. Having migrated all its 348 branches on CBS platform, it is soon going to provide NEFT/RTGS, ATM and credit card facilities. It is also partnering MP Government to provide rural housing units.
“We walk one-and-half kilometer to get drinking water from a river. There are no pucca streets. The nearest bank (in Tamiya) is 10 kilometers from here. And post office is at a distance of 6 kilometers”Hariya Bai, a housewife from Bamauri village
Apart from SNKGB and CBI, Sahayog Microfinance, a company sponsored by Oxigen Services India, Nageswara Charitable Trust, an NGO operating in three states including Madhya Pradesh, Sanjeevani, an NGO-based at Amarwara block of Chhindwara and Mahila Smriddhi Bank-Pararth Samiti, an MFI working in Tamia block are doing their bit for inclusion of marginalised in the economic mainstream. While Sahayog lends small loans for income generating activities using Joint Liability Group (JLG) methodology, NCT claims to have completed 1,000 SHG-Bank linkage programmes in Chhindwara and Seoni and been allowed by NABARD to create 5,000 more SHGs in the two districts. Sanjeevani introduced an agriculture loan for SHG members so that they could buy better quality seeds and fertilisers, while MSB, is pilot testing a loan for migrants in Tamia.
Considering that Chhindwara accounts for almost 16 per cent of Madhya Pradesh’s horticultural production and around 10 per cent of State’s total area is under horticulture cultivation and oranges account for over 75 per cent of its total fruit production, there is a need to put in place sorting, grading, cold store, deep freeze, reefer transport and processing facilities. And since a large majority of people in Chhindwara still live on agriculture, there is a need to increase productivity.
For that the government would need to improve on irrigation and power facilities and promote seeds which multiply better. The Zonal Agricultural Research Station based at Chhindwara would need to be more active and innovative.
“80 per cent of our people are farmers. We need to provide them better seeds,” asserts Deepak Saxena, MLA from Chhindwara and a farmer who has just reaped a bumper harvest of maize. The new maize seed, according to Saxena, increased his production by 10-12 quintal per acre. Besides maize, Chhindwara grows wheat, soyabeen, gram, groundnut and lentils.
Though the district has progressed as far as industries, skill development centres and employment opportunities are concerned, many of its parts have had no share in the development pie. There are villages where the only means of transport is either walking or bullock carts, where women walk long distances to fetch drinking water from wells or streams and where, leave aside banks, there are no post offices. There are villages where agriculture is the only occupation known, where people look up to the sky for irrigating their crops and where wild animals eat up the crops. There are also villages where children walk several kilometres to reach a school.
“We walk one and half kilometre to get drinking water from a river. There are no pucca streets. The nearest bank (in Tamiya) is 10 kilometres from here. And post office is at a distance of 6 kilometres,” says Hariya Bai, a housewife from Bamauri village. Hariya and her husband Fungan Lal toil in farms to sustain their daughter and two sons.
Though the district has progressed as far as industries, skill development centres and employment opportunities are concerned, many of its parts have had no share in the development pie
The challenge would be in taking drinking water, education and other basic amenities to such villages and connecting them with the nearby towns and cities through road, rail or ropeways. The last could be a good option to connect Patalkot (a deep valley, housing over a dozen villages, which is a tourist spot and from where one needs to maneuver at least half-an-hour long ascent to reach a motorable road).
Team Inclusion gathered from its interaction with different stakeholders that it has been an uphill task for skill trainers to get placements for their students primarily because there has been no integration of skill centres with the industry and local industries are too few to accommodate the students. The placement records of JCB and Toyota bear testimony to this. Out of the 200 who have got placements after JCB course, only 3 are placed in Chhindwara. Similarly, Toyota programme has ensured jobs for only 8 out of the total 18 students who have passed out in two batches so far. Not a single of them is employed in Chhindwara.
The DLCs boast of a slightly better record primarily because Rural Shores set up the country’s first rural BPO in the district. Out of 113 DLC students who have bagged placements in Chhindwara, over 60 are working in the BPO. 267 students (out of total 951 who have passed out from the two centres till now) are still employed outside Chhindwara. Punj Lloyd and L&T withdrew from the CII’s centre because they failed to get placements to the students. The former admits it in as many words.
“(Our placement rate) was not really good. On completion of training students were not willing to mobilise and move outside state to pipeline project sites,” says Kamaljit Singh Mehrok, Head – Craftsmen Training Institute in Punj Llyod. Mehrok has no hesitation in saying that the overall experience of the company in Chhindwara was not good. “As the trades in which training was being imparted – Welders and Fitters – are very skillful trades, the candidates from tribal areas did not have the intellectual bandwidth to understand all the concepts of theory and practice. Secondly the candidates were not regular during training; the average attendance being 60%. The overall output was poor,” he claims. Mehrok discloses that his company pulled out of the CII centre as it realised that ‘we were not achieving the expected results due to the lack of understanding of the subject matter among locals, reluctance to relocate and low attendance.’
Mehrok emphasises on exploration of placement options before starting a batch and creation of awareness and motivation among tribal candidates about the vocational courses. He also demands residential training programmes to ensure that students attend classes regularly. “Once Welders and Fitters are trained they should be immediately placed on project sites without any delay otherwise they will lose their skill and accuracy,” he points out.
Vipin Verma, a Senior Fitter with Nagarjuna Oil Corporation Limited in Mettupalayam (near Pondicherry), endorses this when he discloses that he is the only one from his batch of 20 to get employment. “I was part of the second batch. All my batchmates are into farming,” he says.
Verma attributes the poor placement record of CII institute to non integration of the institute with the industries. “My company is always in need of fitters. But the students in Chhindwara do not get to know about this. There is a communication gap,” he adds. Verma also points out that due to non availability of jobs in Chhindwara, the students passing out from different skill institutes are at a disadvantage as companies based outside the district prefer local talent.
“The youngsters from the rural areas cannot run the last mile. The basic thing – how do you go to an interview, how do you speak English – has played a major role in changing vision of the people. Skill development is very important”Kamal Nath
The District Learning Centres also have a handicap as the girls who pass out from there refuse to relocate out of Chhindwara due to pressure from family and the society.
On financial inclusion too, a lot more needs to be done. The SNKGB figures (133,206 farmers given credit cards) on credit to farmers also points to the large empty space in the glass. Considering that the RRB has the largest network in Chhindwara and that the population of the district has crossed the two million mark lot more work needs to be done to achieve even a semblance of financial inclusion. There are many villages in Tamia and Jamai tehsils and other rural sections of the district which still do not have access to banking, savings and credit. Insurance and pension, the other important aspects of economic growth are still unheard in the rural landscape of Chhindwara. “Financial inclusion has taken place but there is much that needs to be done in this area,” a candid Kamal Nath signs off.