28 Jan 2020 19:51 IST

Budget should boost job opportunities for women

Online learning tools, edtech firms and viable rural development models must get more attention too

Nikhil Rungta, Country Manager, India, Verizon Media

I look forward to measures in this Budget that can bring many more women into the workforce, making them powerful economic contributors. India currently lags with only 27 per cent of women in the workforce. Bringing this number closer to the global average of 48 per cent in the next 10 years can reportedly add another $700 billion to GDP growth (according to Niti Aayog). However, this isn’t just an urgent economic priority. Joining the workforce is now an ‘aspiration’ for women in the country. A recent poll by Makers India, our media brand dedicated to accelerating the women’s movement, found that education, job-readiness, safety and career development are top priorities for women Internet users in India. Supportive infrastructure, with provisions that deepen skilling, boost women’s employment opportunities and entrepreneurship potential, will empower women as they prepare to take their place in the workforce.

Vamsi Krishna, CEO & Co-founder, Vedantu- a LIVE Interactive online tutoring platform.

Education has transformed in a big way over the past few years, particularly in the way students and educators have become conscious of adopting the relevant and dynamic learning tools vis-à-vis recorded content. Live online learning is playing a big role in this transformation and its effects are now being widely recognised, from the metros to the smaller towns. This change is in sync with India’s digital transformation story and the government’s plan to rejuvenate the education sector with the revamped National Education Policy in the last Budget. We look forward to more such initiatives and friendly measures for the online learning ecosystem.

Arun Nagpal, Co-Founder & Managing Director of Mrida Group, a social business venture that seeks to build sustainable and financially viable business models for holistic rural development

Macro policy level:

· No doubt doubling farmer incomes is a commendable goal, but there is first and foremost, a need for a robust mechanism that at least reasonably accurately measures the actual increase in farmer incomes and reports it in a transparent manner. There needs to be a sense of accountability towards this objective, across the board.

· Another core issue is disparity in such incomes. There needs to be a visible, concerted effort at bridging the gap between the haves and the have-nots, and ensuring that small and marginal farmers, who make up by far the bulk of India’s farmer base, are specifically addressed.

Operational level:

· Using the Krishi Vigyan Kendras to reach out to farmers to facilitate knowledge dissemination and practical inputs on the ground and convergence of various Central and State schemes at the last mile and the farmer’s doorstep.

· A well-defined, massive outreach programme ensuring that a single-window facility is available to the farmer at the last mile is a critical requirement. The Budget would do well to provide a specific outlay and defined objectives for such a programme, targeted at creating pockets of excellence across different crops and in different parts of the country, which actually demonstrate significantly higher income enhancement than the national average. These pockets of excellence could then be horizontally deployed and scaled up quickly thereafter.

· Leveraging technology in the agriculture sector – a specific outlay that marries technology with the available knowledge base to address issues such as the vagaries of weather, irrigation facilities, crop inputs and so on. The objective would be to develop an integrated system that not only makes critical information available on a real time basis to the farmer, but also facilitates efficient utilisation of scarce resources – drip irrigation, seed treatment, threshers, and so on.

· Facilitating investment into the agriculture value chain – from weather forecasting to agri inputs through the sowing-cultivation-harvesting cycle, to agri processing and value addition, and finally the supply chain – including storage, cold chains, and market linkages. Why not a specific outlay to set up large, integrated Agri Hubs that will span the entire value chain from farm-to-fork? Combined with the policy level initiatives as proposed, and the on-ground operational inputs, these agri hubs could be a harbinger of real change.

Raj Padhiyar, Director, Digital Gurukul.

With rapid digitalisation in the education industry over the last few years, there are high expectations from the Centre in the upcoming Budget. It is time the Government seriously considered setting up a professional accreditation body for skill-oriented digital courses. Though technology-led learning is highly effective in closing the skills gap, India has been slower to adopt technology in learning than other countries such as China, Singapore. To address this, edtech companies should be eligible for government grants for dedicated research/innovation and global partnership across edtech companies must be facilitated.

To promote the importance of new-age skills, the Centre’s RTE (Right to Education) must be rebranded as “Right to Quality Education” & the PIB should allocate a budget to promote digital courses for jobs, and to encourage entrepreneurship in tier- 2,3 cities and the rural areas.