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Indian fisheries and aquaculture is an important sector of food production, providing nutritional security to the food basket, contributing to agricultural exports and engaging about 14 million people in different activities. With diverse resources ranging from deep seas to lakes in the mountains, and more than 10 percent of the global biodiversity in terms of fish and shellfish species, the country has shown continuous and sustained increments in fish production since independence. According to National Fisheries Development Board, constituting about 6.3 percent of the global fish production, the sector contributes to 1.1 percent of the GDP and 5.15 percent of the agricultural GDP.
West Bengal is bestowed with all types of fishery resources of immense potential, spread over the state, from the marine jurisdiction in the Bay of Bengal in South India to the cold water region at the base of the Himalayas in North India.
As per Government of India figures, fish and fish products have presently emerged as the largest group in agricultural exports of India, with 10.51 lakh tonnes in terms of quantity and Rs. 33,442 crores in value. This accounts for around 10 percent of the total exports of the country and nearly 20 percent of the agricultural exports.
The National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) is an autonomous organisation under the administrative control of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. With an aim to enhance fish production and productivity in the country and to coordinate fishery development in an integrated and holistic manner, NFDB conceptualised the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Programme in Marine Capture Fisherman cum Primary Processor and Aquaculture Worker Job Roles to benefit fish farmers in West Bengal.
Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a platform to provide recognition to informal learning or learning through work, to get equal acceptance as the formal levels of education. It aims to appreciate prior learning, irrespective of the medium of achieving it.
Agriculture Skill Council of India (ASCI), under the aegis of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE), works towards capacity building by bridging gaps and upgrading skills of farmers, wage workers, self-employed and extension workers, engaged in organised and unorganised segments of agriculture and allied sectors. ASCI will certify the candidates after the successful completion of assessment tests for candidates under the NFDB RPL programme. NFDB is providing financial assistance for conducting RPL programme for fish farmers based on QP’s approved by ASCI.
Sabiruddin Gazi, a resident of Basuldanga, Diamond Harbour, South 24 Praganas in West Bengal, is an aquaculture worker since 2014, earning a monthly remuneration of Rs. 15,000, says “In my family there are 5 members. I took ponds on rent and started fishing with a few ponds; now I am having 16 ponds. During the training, I learnt about fish feed and its importance, types of diseases associated with fish, and how to gain profit by using latest techniques during fishing.”
Adds Mintu Kayal from Kakdwip, who is a marine capture fisherman cum primary processor, working since 2001, “I have a rich experience in marine capture, but some of the aspects, which I ignored during the fishing at marine such as the importance and usage of safety devices, were reiterated during the training. Besides, I learnt about different types of devices used in marine.”
"I believe that agriculture skills can play an instrumental role in shaping the growth trajectory of the country, especially for those living at the fringes of social growth and development. Such initiatives empower them to grow from being an unskilled workforce to skilled fishermen and yield impact through improvement in income and standard of living, not only for individuals but also their families and communities," explains SS Arya, CEO, Agriculture Skill Council of India.
In West Bengal, IL&FS Skills, under the mandate, Recognition of Prior Learning, will train 2500 fish farmers across diverse locations, namely: South 24 Parganas, North 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Purba Medinipur and Howrah districts. "IL&FS Skills has skilled more than 1.6 million people across manufacturing, engineering, construction and service sectors pan India. Our placement linked and upskilling training programmes link youth with employment or opportunities of self-employment. We have been working with the Agriculture Skills Council of India, and over the years, have implemented various programmes for fresh skilling and upskilling of youth in trades likes dairy farmer entrepreneur, tuber crop cultivator, maize cultivator, organic grower, animal health worker, quality seed grower, micro irrigation technician, gardener among other related works,” says Ketul Acharya, COO. & Group Head, IL&FS Skills.
“These programmes focus on enhancing the career and employability opportunities of an individual as well as provide alternative routes to higher education. It also envisages providing opportunities for reducing inequalities based on privileging certain forms of knowledge over others," Acharya adds.
(The author is a senior official at IL&FS Skill Development Corporation. The views expressed in the article are author’s own.)