What started off a pre-poll promise in 2014 is now a full-fledged movement with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the “main bhi chowkidar”—a phrase which translates to ‘I am also a security guard’—campaign in the run-up to the crucial Lok Sabha elections starting April 11. The message is simple: the BJP leaders are capable of guarding the country’s interests better than any other political party.
But there is a catch. The government’s own project to skill youths to become security guards has gone for a toss in recent years. A government body which oversaw the training of security guards was disbanded in January 2018 over allegations that money meant to train youths was spent on parties involving hired dancers and liquor.
The now-disbanded Security Sector Skill Development Council was functioning under the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), a nodal agency set up in 2009 during the previous UPA-II government with a mandate to run all government skill-training schemes. The SSSDC, whose stakeholders are companies that supply security guards, also coordinated with institutes for assessment and certification of candidates.
The UPA government had launched a scheme called the Standard Training Assessment and Reward (STAR) and was operational between August 2013 and September 2014. The Modi government continued the scheme but changed the name to Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, popularly known as Skill India.
Official sources said that a fierce legal battle and ugly spats among officials of the two bodies—NSDC and SSSDC—has led to the closure of over 200 institutes. To counter the NSDC’s claim, SSSDC officer-bearers had levelled a volley of allegations of undue interference.
Manish Kumar, MD & CEO of NSDC, didn’t respond to the Outlook’s queries. However, a senior official, requesting anonymity, alleged that a forensic audit of SSSDC had unearthed diversion of government money for purposes other than skilling candidates.
“The officer-bearers of SSSDC used to throw parties in hotels, spent money on hiring girls to dance and serving liquor to guests with the money sanctioned for skilling youths,” the official said. The official added that NSDC received several emails complaining about the misuse of funds.
“After we de-recognised the SSSDC, we entrusted the Management & Entrepreneurship and Professional Skills Council (MEPSC) to skill youths for guards,” he says.
On the other hand, well-known private detective Kunwar Vikram Singh, who was also the chairman of the board of SSSDC, alleged that trouble started soon after the new government came in power in May 2014.
“Senior officials in the Skill Ministry and NSDC invited me several times and asked me to step down as chairman. They wanted to replace me with their own man,” Singh said, adding that his refusal initiated a vicious vendetta and arm-twisting tactics.
“On the pretext of misappropriation fund, they froze the SSSDC’s account, filed a case in the Economic Offence Wing, let the I-T department after us and got an independent audit to prove us guilty,” said Singh, who is also the chairman of the Central Association of Private Security Industry.
Singh got the account de-frozen by an order from the Delhi High Court and has been fighting a legal battle against NSDC for a year-and-a-half.
Several retired army officials, who owns skilling institutes, said they suffered the most due to the fight between the two bodies as they stopped getting new candidates and funds.
There are over 30 sector skill councils under NSDC which develops curriculum, training module and sets occupational standard for respective entrepreneurship skills in paramedics, infrastructure, jewellery design, fashion design etc.