‘Year of Construction Workers 2016-2017’: Harnessing Local Skills
The environment that we live in is filled with the byproduct of construction. Whether it is roads, schools, buildings, hospitals, etc, construction impacts our lives, and very often, also determines the quality of our lives. What’s more is that this sector has so much scope for the unemployed youth and our local skilled workers to engage themselves in.
During the Nagaland Youth Summit 2016, the then Chief Minister of Nagaland, T.R Zeliang had pointed out that while the talent and proficiency of our youth are poised to propel our state to progress and prosperity, there is a vital gap in our human resource. He was especially referring to the lack of construction workers in the state, and the very odd situation we are facing, wherein for all the construction of buildings and roads, we are still dependent on those workers from outside. “The moot question is, the issue of dependence on outside workers, even for construction of our churches, needs to be pondered over seriously – are we on the right track to prosperity?” he had asked.
Pertinently, the year 2016-2017 was declared as the “Year of Construction Workers.” This is one sector that needs to be harnessed by our local people. As the Advisor to the chief minister, Lalthara would put it, “We are making noises about IBIs all the time, everybody is talking about them but at the same time, we cannot do anything without them. Nobody wants to construct the roads, nobody wants to take up construction work…” There is a pressing need to realise that this is required for our survival and in his words, “there is actually honour in it.” Development, he said, is now only with construction and “we want our people to take this job.”
Mmhonlumo Kikon, MLA, who previously led the committee for the ‘Year of Construction Workers’ as the Convener felt that, “for a very long time the state of Nagaland has witnessed the influx of migrants, both legal and illegal, taking away our jobs in the construction sector with money flowing out of the state while the state is reeling under the unemployment burden. Whereas we have seen some Naga youths taking up the construction work as a labourer or plumber or electrician or even as a mason, we have not given it the importance it deserves as a sector where both unemployment and also the economy of the state can benefit.”
He said that ‘this is on a pilot scale and will give birth to a mushrooming of unemployed Naga youths getting into the booming construction sectors with definite skill sets to tap into both the job market under it and also build a work culture which will change the society in the long term.’
Stating that the sector has the potential to absorb a minimum of one lakh unemployed youths wherein the target can be set for a period of five years to achieve that, he said, “that way the high attrition rate of Naga youths working outside of the state can be addressed and the impact of unemployment on the government exchequer will be curtailed to a large extent and the Government can focus on providing sufficient funds for the development once we have youths clamouring for the private sector rather than the government sector.” “Work and earn will be the new mantra of Naga youths once it is fully implemented!” he impressed upon.
For the President of the Nagaland Contractors and Suppliers’ Union (NCSU), Pele Khezhie, ‘construction is Nagaland’s only industry’. But sadly, we haven’t been able to protect it, he said. Nonetheless, he is hopeful that the declaration of the ‘Year of Construction Workers’ will change the mindsets of the people both regarding construction and labour as well as the ‘government service mindset.’ Towards this end, he also stressed on giving importance on the emergence of private firms and corporations, and added, if we continue to depend on outsiders for this sector, the future is bleak.
To fill this huge gap in the construction sector, YouthNet had earlier conceptualized “Dial Nagaland” in July 2016, while recognizing the need to address the issue of inaccessibility of local skilled workers including the innumerable skilled people from it is across the state. “Dial Nagaland” is a classified directory of local skilled workers which the public can gain access to, for different services and currently has a database of about 130 skilled workers. This has been initiated as part of YouthNet’s Impact 5000 by 18, a five year program on entrepreneurship, skill development and employment. A total of 80 professional skilled workers through ‘Dial Nagaland’ are responding to the needs of different clients and customers in areas such as carpentry, plumbing, electrification, painting, tiles and marbles.
Following the declaration at the Nagaland Youth Summit 2016, the ‘Year of Construction Workers 2016-2017’ was also formally launched on March 25, 2017 at the Directorate of Employment, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship by Dr. T.M Lotha, Advisor of the concerned department and also Convener of YOCW. The project, which is to be implemented in partnership with Zynorique Initiative Society (ZIS) will train 550 youths comprising of 50 trainees from each district, and can be seen as a great leap towards harnessing the huge resources the state has in the construction sector.
Financial Implication for Implementation of Year of Construction Workers