MGNF group with the dignitaries scaled
MGNF group with the dignitaries

The Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF) programme, launched by the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), with support from the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of India, welcomed the first batch consisting of 74 students, in an orientation ceremony at IIMB on March 08, 2020. The first cohort comprises 44 per cent women candidates.

Programme Director Arnab Mukherji, faculty from the Public Policy  area at IIM Bangalore, explained: “The MGNF programme helps the Fellows to discover growth paths and associated skill development needs at the district level that can change the development journey in many parts of the country. At one level, it focuses on the district as the unit of economy activity and inverts the top-down process endemic to public policy.

At another, it seeks to build bridges to enable go-to-market strategies and create value chains and skill growth pathways that start from the district and link to domestic and international markets. We hope the cohort will uncover a constellation of culturally appropriate pathways for sustainable incomes by creating inclusive skilling ecosystems.”

MGNF Mahendra Nath Pandey 1

Mahendra Nath Pandey

MGNF Lamp Light 2

MGNF – Lamp Light

In his plenary address, Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, Minister of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of India, said: “It is very encouraging  to see that IIMB has a clear and impact-oriented design and structure for the MGNF programme with an emphasis on field work.”

Reiterating his government’s commitment to skill development training, he observed that the State Skill Development Missions, especially those in Karnataka and Jammu & Kashmir, had launched their own initiatives in villages towards this end. “Unless we involve districts, which are the engines of growth in our economy, in the skill development drive, we cannot hope to achieve our goal of making India the skill capital of the world,” he said.

The minister recalled an incident from his days at Benares Hindu University when as general secretary of the student union, in 1977, he was instrumental in getting the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai to sanction Rs 22 lakh to BHU, from which all first-class MA, MSc and MCom students of BHU  would get a fellowship of Rs 300 — “a princely sum in those days, especially because until then only students of medicine and engineering got financial support”.

He lauded the city of Bengaluru for providing a pipeline of talent to the country and the world, be it in the domains of science, technology, engineering, industry or entrepreneurship. 

In his inaugural address, Pravin Kumar (IAS), Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Govt. of India, observed that skilling of the youth is a key priority of the government so that the growing economy is not starved of manpower. “Skilling had become a supply-driven system. We are making it demand-driven with a focus on districts.”  He said he hoped to extend the MGNF programme to all districts in the country. “It is significant to launch the MGNF programme on International Women’s Day as the programme has 44 per cent women candidates,” he added.

Juthika Patankar (IAS), Additional Secretary, MSDE, Govt. of India, said she was delighted to welcome the 74 Fellows, selected after a rigorous process, to the MGNF programme. “Skill training has to encompass all sectors of the economy and all sections of society. The MGNF programme, we hope, will give everyone, in the districts and at the grassroots, an equal and good chance to earn a livelihood. MSDE is happy to partner with one of the most prestigious institutes in the country – IIM Bangalore. IIMB has given the idea of this fellowship, a definite form and shape. The focus, we hope, will be in providing skill training services required in villages for the development of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry etc.”

Dr. S. Selva Kumar, Principal Secretary, Skill Development, Entrepreneurship and Livelihoods, Govt. of Karnataka, said he looked forward to the MGNF Fellows filling the skill gap training in the country. He said his department was keen on augmenting need-based skill training by also working with private firms and engineering colleges in the state. “Verticals in our department in the districts work in isolation. They need convergence. The MGNF Fellows could help in addressing this gap.” 

Jayasudha Thiagarajan, Chief Operating Officer, SANKALP Cell, National Instructional Media Institute (NIMI). Ms Thiagrajan informed the Fellows about MGNF IT portal in a special session at the event. NIMI is the implementation partner for MGNF and will play a critical role in ensuring that the entire programme is successful, particularly the district module of the programme.

In his vote of thanks, Programme Director Sankarshan Basu, Professor of Finance & Accounting at IIM Bangalore, said: “MGNF looks to redefine the model of ideating about the developmental process by truly decentralizing the whole concept. Instead of a top-down approach, it seeks to create a bottom-up approach and can significantly help in the development landscape of the country as specific requirements will be highlighted. In some sense, it is an attempt o indigenize the ‘market town’ model of development in medieval Europe, suitably adapted to the current Indian ecosystem.”

Earlier in the morning, Professor Gopal Naik, Dean, Faculty, IIM Bangalore, set the context for the launch of the MGNF. 

IIM Bangalore launched the MGNF in collaboration with Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), Government of India (GoI), and State Skill Development Missions (SSDMs). The institute has undertaken this endeavour in support of the launch of Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) Project.

MGNF, a two-year academic programme, is a unique opportunity for young, dynamic individuals to contribute to enhancing skill development and promote rural employment at the district level. It aims to strengthen the district-level skill ecosystem for decentralized skill development governance. It will provide academic inputs and a field immersion component that jointly seeks to raise economic output and promote livelihood in rural areas.

The inaugural cohort of MGNF was selected through a gruelling process comprising written tests, personal interview and case analysis. MGNF Fellows were shortlisted from an eclectic mix of disciplines ranging from social sciences, business administration, law and engineering. These Fellows will be placed in 74 districts across the states of Gujarat, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh. Upon completion of these components, the Fellow will be awarded a Certificate.

As Programme Directors, Prof. Arnab Mukherji, from the Public Policy area, and Prof. Sankarshan Basu, from the Finance and Accounting area at IIMB, will oversee the execution of the MGNF programme.

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