31 May

Our attempt at setting up a PMKVY center

In our blog posts, we generally shed light on challenges we face, write about how we’ve overcome these challenges and speak about modest accomplishments in our field work. These posts, however, do not always paint the full picture. They often do not discuss a string of setbacks that we face when we roll out an action plan for an idea we come up with. They don’t always capture the trials and frustrations our team undergoes when a plan we put into action fails. Keeping this in mind, we address in this post one such recent plan which we did not successfully execute.

Since its inception, Seva Setu has addressed two core issues – facilitating citizens and empowering them. In an attempt at empowering the societies we work with, we have for long now established satellite training centers and production management units. We teach stitching and fundamentals of IT and have worked with communities to manage the production of both, blouses and sattu. In an attempt at scaling this effort, we decided to set up a training center this quarter as part of Pradhan Mantri’s Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY). Doing so would have helped us establish a financially viable option to increase our reach to villages at the outskirts of Patna city.

PMKVY’s framework mandates a training center to follow certain specifications to be eligible to run a training center. In return, the center is paid a sum of roughly 7000 INR by the central government for every student it trains. Anyone older than 18 years is eligible to get trained. This is a non-residential program, where a student spends roughly 8 hours a day at the center and is involved in both, theory and practical training.

Keen on starting such training centers ourselves, we set out on a month-long effort to ensure we set one up. We decided to train students as domestic data entry operators, a skill/job identified by the National Skill Development Council (NSDC), the government-backed organization running PMKVY. Setting up a center to teach this trade was not resource-heavy – at least so we thought. We needed to have one classroom and laboratory (roughly 10 square feet of floor area per student we train) with power-backup, equipped with one laptop for every student we planned to train, a projector and some stationary.

A practical setup
SevaSetu 1 SevaSetu

We were practical in our approach in setting up a training center and rented out a flat in a residential apartment complex as our place of operations. Having complied with the various requirements specified by PMKVY, we were eagerly looking forward to our on-site inspection. The inspection did not turn out in our favor. The inspector very quickly ruled out the possibility of using a flat as a training center. This is in spite of having the necessary floor space to accommodate 20 students, the batch-size that we were aiming for. The technical reason provided was that the training center led to other areas like small rooms, while it was required to be an enclosed space. We read through the guidelines [link] quite carefully and did not find this anywhere being mentioned. We were also told that the minimum floor space required for the classroom was 300 sq ft. This asserted fact was also nowhere to be found. Following the inspection, we received the inspector’s report which informed us that we had not been granted permission to run this training center as part of PMKVY. The primary reason was that our classroom did not seem to be a typical classroom. Read the full report here.


Guidelines – A tad too impractical?
At the risk of sounding like the proverbial fox which found the grapes sour, we question the framework laid out by PMKVY to skill our citizens. One wonders why the means are so heavily regulated when it ought to be the ends that matter. If the outcomes of the training are heavily monitored and regulated, would it matter if we taught students under a tree as against an air conditioned classroom? The need of the hour is quality teaching, which even the best PMKVY centers fail to provide. After having spoken to various training centers in and around Patna, Bihar, we gathered that centers which have been around for a while are on the look out for faculty to teach these modules. With Seva Setu’s technical expertise and collective experience in academia, technology, and assessments, we strongly believe we would have given the best in this business a run for their money. We believed that bootstrapping these centers in a small apartment and then moving upwards based on its success would’ve been the right, sustainable way to establish such a center of excellence. But NSDC wouldn’t have any of our practical ways forward in approaching this problem.

A few other requirements which were mandated didn’t make sense either. The guidelines state that miscellaneous stationary items like glue sticks, staplers etc. be provisioned for every student. We don’t understand why this is a necessity. A projector screen, a flip-chart and a microphone-system are also mandatory to have in the classroom. Why? For a group of 20 students, are these really must-have requirements? When was the last time we sat in a classroom with a flip-chart?

Nevertheless, this setback hasn’t doused our spirit to go ahead with this idea. We’re thinking through other alternates which can be a compelling and sustainable model to train our youth on skills that are demanded in the industry today – like being fluent in productivity tools like MS Excel, and other various aspects of working in a professional workplace. We march on!

01 Dec

National Skill Development Scheme | Training on Sewing and Stitching

The burgeoning population has always been considered as a bane for our country. It is assumed as the primary hurdle in any development process. And the reason behind this is that majority of our population is still unskilled and uneducated. Conclusively, population, instead of being an asset ends up being a liability for the country.

National Skill Development Scheme is one of the policies which has the potential to change the face of our country. This scheme stresses on enriching the population with skills which can enable them to live a dignified life. While we appreciate the noble endeavor of our government, we also encountered certain flaws in the scheme. The government is working towards improving these flaws. Currently, this scheme works in a centralized manner where the trainer, training institutes, etc. are provided and controlled by the government. This approach might have worked had we been a developed country. But unfortunately, we lack infrastructures and the required pre-requisites for the implementation of this scheme on such a large scale. The government resources are not enough to train a huge number of people within the stipulated time.

Seva Setu believes that the involvement of the community is inevitable if we are to make such schemes successful. The government may act as a facilitator and let the community take the process forward. This can be a more tangible model in the long run. With this principle in mind, we started our sewing training program. Under this program, we visit local communities, locate a skilled trainer (usually we always find one within the community itself), canvass potential trainees and after a few rounds of discussion, we agree on a convenient place within the community itself to launch the sewing training center. We provide Rs. 7,000 as the seed capital (The cost of Sewing Machine + Accessories Cost)

We are pleased to announce that we have completed another batch of our sewing training program. Certificates have been distributed on 26/11/2016 to all the 15 students who were trained for 3 months under our trainer Janki Ji. With the completion of this batch, the total number of students who have been trained under this initiative has reached 355. But Seva Setu’s role doesn’t end with the completion of 3 months of training and distribution of the certificates. We try to connect these young girls/women to wholesalers and retailers who buy stitched petticoat and blouses. We make sure that they are able to use their newly acquired skill to earn money.

While discussing with the students during the certificate distribution ceremony, we observed a great difference in the confidence level of most of the girls/ women. Since the majority of them were housewives, they were accustomed to household chores and restricted themselves throughout their life. For the first time, they were feeling that they can contribute to their family in terms of money as well. Though boosting their confidence level isn’t the direct outcome of our initiative but we genuinely believe that it will help them taking a stand for themselves in the future.

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24 Aug

Seva Setu’s IT skills training programs

We’re glad to announce that we have now completed four batches of skill training in basic IT and computer skills. Around this time last year, Seva Setu had started off with its skill training initiatives to ensure that people in remote locations get a chance to compete in present day markets. We’d identified stitching and sewing to be one easy to implement training program. The other more important skill which we had decided to focus on was IT and computer skills. Having these skills immediately opens up a host of markets and also ensures they’re host to new and quicker ways for gathering information.WhatsApp Image 2016-08-05 at 12.21.25 AMWhatsApp Image 2016-08-05 at 12.22.49 AM

Late last month, we wrapped the fourth and final batch, all of which took place in Vaishali district. A total of 116 students were a part of these 4 cohorts and were taught general computer literacy and were exposed to basic productivity tools like emails, spreadsheets etc. Classes included both, theory and practical sessions. We now aim to start a set of satellite centers in Phulwari block in Patna district and see how they go.


One of the students told us how she’s able to now give online competitive examinations, something which she used to miss out on until recently. Another spoke of the wider set of activities she’s now able to get done (testimonial in the image).

With this happy note also dawns a realization that this is just the beginning. We realize that the process doesn’t end here.

One immediate action item for Seva Setu is to facilitate them to get employed – by being the setu (bridge) between those who need IT skills and those who possess it. A simple yet interesting opportunity we learnt was the existence of Vasudha Centers [1] – small computer centers in each panchayat whose aim is to aid villagers to make use of various facilities online. Some of the more entrepreneurial students from our batches can easily set these up and get them running.

Another important lesson for us from this exercise was how opening one center in one central location really did not ensure that a sizeable population benefited from such facilities.  We saw a reluctance in people staying as close as 5-10 kilometers to come over to our centers – those that benefited were all residents of the town the center was opened in. We intend on opening small, low-cost, low-resource satellite centers across various blocks as against setting up a full-fledged training center in any one location. We have seen this to help people overcome their inhibitions of acquiring new skills and making them open to trying out new things.

With this thought, we see that our job has only begun. We are in the process of setting ourselves targets to open more such training and IT training centers. We’ll keep you posted.

[1] – https://www.csc.gov.in/

13 Jul

Hunarbaaz Babli!

Today, we introduce Babli, a newly elected ward counselor of Muradpur village from Bhulosa Danapur panchayat, Patna.

We first met Babli when we were associated with World Health Partners to ensure that drugs to check TB were being consumed in a timely manner by those fighting it. Babli had seen Seva Setu’s active involvement in this program and had walked up to us asking whether she could be a part of the action. A couple of discussions later, she was on-board, active as a field executive.

On having worked actively on monitoring the government’s VHND programs and getting malnourished children from her neighborhood admitted to the local Nutritional Rehabilitation Center (NRC), she took up Seva Setu’s Skill India program and helped set up stitching centers in three villages in her panchayat.

Babli receiving a certificate of training for stitching from another of our field volunteers Abhay Anand

Babli receiving a certificate of training for stitching from another of our field volunteers Abhay Anand

Babli and the team she helped assemble to get trained in stitching.

Babli and the team she helped assemble to get trained in stitching.

Babli today has a vision for where she wants to see her village in five years’ time. Her stint with Seva Setu has exposed her to a number of ways in which women and children from her village can live healthy lives and also double up as income generators for their respective households. Setting up a robust drainage system, connectivity to nearby towns through well-connected roads and ensuring each house has a toilet are a part of her immediate action items. We are pleased to aid her in setting up the initial capital in getting some of these projects started off.

We see a fantastic opportunity to help the Bablis of tomorrow. At Seva Setu, the range of activities we involve ourselves in, invariably exposes our field executives to the various pain-points the common man suffers from. Additionally, our model also shows through actionable work on how some of these pain points can be circumvented. The hope and aspiration we see in Babli’s eyes fuels our drive to be the “setu” we envisioned to be – between those willing to serve and those who cannot help themselves.

Pleased to hear about Babli? Want to meet many others on the ground who are as active and determined to bring about a change? Want to lead a team of such spirited individuals into building something worthwhile? Drop a note right away – we’ll be happy for you to be involved!

Work done with: Abhay Anand ji