Brick by brick

from a job-seeker mi­grant to a world con­tes­tant: ro­him momin can be a poster­boy for Skill In­dia mis­sion

Governance Now - - EMPOWERMENT - Pranita Kulka­rni

Ro­him momin was barely 17 years old in 2013, when he got off the train in Delhi and took his first steps to­wards an un­cer­tain life in the city. ac­com­pa­nied by a few fel­lows from his vil­lage in malda, West Ben­gal, momin was to join the throngs of mi­grants, who come to met­ros in search of liveli­hood. He had re­cently lost both his par­ents to ill­ness, and as the only boy among the five sib­lings, was ex­pected to earn for his fam­ily and marry off his sis­ters. Fel­low mi­grants put him in touch with a con­trac­tor, and he found his call­ing as a ma­son.

“i was help­less. i had to quit school. i had to for­get my dream to be­come a teacher. i had to be the bread­win­ner for my fam­ily. it felt like ev­ery­thing’s over,” re­mem­bers momin. The fact that he would go on to rep­re­sent his coun­try in a com­pe­ti­tion con­sid­ered the ‘olympics for Skills’ in a mat­ter of three years wouldn’t have been a piece of even his wildest imag­i­na­tion. and he ad­mits he still can’t be­lieve it.

How­ever, against all odds, momin has made his way to the team of 28 con­tes­tants from in­dia, gear­ing up to par­tic­i­pate in the Worldskills abu dhabi 2017 – the 44th edi­tion of what is dubbed as the world’s largest vo­ca­tional skills com­pe­ti­tion, to be held dur­ing oc­to­ber 15-18. The event in­vites con­tes­tants from 77 coun­tries to par­tic­i­pate in 51 skill com­pe­ti­tions in di­verse fields like mecha­tron­ics, weld­ing, jew­ellery, au­to­body re­pair, hair­dress­ing, bak­ery, elec­tri­cal in­stal­la­tions, pro­to­type mod­el­ling and mo­bile ro­bot­ics.

While momin will com­pete in the brick­lay­ing seg­ment, other 27 in­dian par­tic­i­pants will put up a fight for medals in 26 cat­e­gories. as the team came to­gether one last time be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion for a train­ing ses­sion or­gan­ised by na­tional Skill de­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (NSDC) in Delhi early Septem­ber, lean-fig­ured Momin, wear­ing a tri­colour t-shirt – the same as the rest of the team – pledged to de­liver his best per­for­mance. He has been train­ing re­lent­lessly for over a year, and is hope­ful of a vic­tory. He of course ad­mits that it is not likely to be a cake­walk.

Brick­lay­ing is a fun­da­men­tal skill used in con­struc­tion work, and thus im­por­tant for in­fras­truc­ture de­vel­op­ment. How­ever, in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries like in­dia where qual­ity in­fras­truc­ture is the need of the hour, those who lay bricks do not have vo­ca­tional train­ing: it’s some­thing they are sup­posed to learn in­for­mally, on the job. even as the gov­ern­ment, with its Skill in­dia mis­sion, at­tempts to high­light the im­por­tance and ne­ces­sity of vo­ca­tional ed­u­ca­tion, in re­al­ity ma­jor­ity of the ma­sons are treated like un­skilled or semi-skilled labour­ers. Their wages, too, are of­ten much lower than the min­i­mum wages. When he started out, momin could earn barely ₹150200 a day, af­ter seat­ing it out for 12 hours. “The con­trac­tor had also made ar­range­ments for our stay in noida, but the money was still not enough. Three of my four sis­ters were un­mar­ried when i left for delhi. i had to send some money home, plus i had to save enough for their wed­ding ex­penses,” he says.

Momin’s fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion took a turn for the bet­ter af­ter he joined a con­struc­tion com­pany in delhi. it was at this job that he came to know about the Worldskills in­dia – a na­tional com­pe­ti­tion con­ducted by nsdc, which also acts as a qual­i­fi­ca­tion and se­lec­tion round for the in­ter­na­tional chap­ter of the Worldskills. momin was in­ter­ested, and his project man­ager Pavan Ku­mar Pandey started train­ing him in Jan­uary 2016 for the re­gional round of Worldskills in­dia. Here he rep­re­sented his com­pany – ATS in­fras­truc­ture, a re­puted real­tor in noida – in the brick­lay­ing cat­e­gory.

Pandey says, “Ro­him was a very sin­cere boy, and his in­tel­li­gence was pal­pa­ble. His grasp­ing power is re­ally good. Us ke haathon me kala hai. [He has an artis­tic at­ti­tude.] i could sense that.” momin won a sil­ver medal in the com­pe­ti­tion in July last year and has been train­ing for the in­ter­na­tional chap­ter in abu dhabi since then.

The Worldskills com­pe­ti­tion de­mands a whole an­other level of

mas­tery and pre­ci­sion from the par­tic­i­pant brick­lay­ers. The tasks given to them are sev­eral times harder than the ac­tiv­i­ties they would per­form at a con­struc­tion site. Parshu­ram naik, who had won a medal­lion in the same cat­e­gory two years ago in Sao Paulo, says, “The for­mat of this com­pe­ti­tion is very dif­fer­ent. We were given di­a­grams, and were asked to make three dif­fer­ent mod­els within a span of 22 hours spread over four days. it can vary to three days, de­pend­ing on the type of the model and dif­fi­culty level.”

The di­a­gram given to the par­tic­i­pants pro­vides spe­cific mea­sure­ments for the model, in terms of length, breadth and shape. The par­tic­i­pant might be asked to add el­e­ments like arches or text or shapes to be em­bossed on the mod­els. even a slight­est er­ror – dif­fer­ence of even 1 mm in the spec­i­fi­ca­tions – can slash points off the par­tic­i­pant’s score. The scor­ing sys­tem is di­vided into sub­jec­tive (weigh­tage: 20 per­cent) and ob­jec­tive (weigh­tage: 80 per­cent) cri­te­ria. While the mark­ing in the ob­jec­tive cri­te­ria is based on fac­tors such as align­ment, di­men­sion, level and de­tail­ing, for marks in the sub­jec­tive cri­te­ria, at­ten­tion has to be paid to the fin­ish­ing of the model.

momin has been prac­tis­ing for the com­pe­ti­tion at Kushal Credai in Pune where Naik is one of his train­ers. Kushal is a part­ner­ship project be­tween the Pune metro chap­ter of con­fed­er­a­tion of Real es­tate de­vel­op­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tions of In­dia (Credai) and NSDC. Momin says, “i am us­ing the older di­a­grams from the previous com­pe­ti­tions to prac­tise for an­gu­lar mod­els, cut­ting, slope and shapes like arches.” The ac­cu­racy with which he fol­lows the mea­sure­ments has been a big plus point for him. He ex­plains, “Be­fore i had to quit school, i was quite a smart stu­dent and hardly ever missed the first or sec­ond rank in my class. maths was one of my most favourite sub­jects, and i feel like my in­cli­na­tion to­wards the sub­ject is help­ing me today.” Read­ing and in­ter­pret­ing the di­a­gram is con­sid­ered the most cru­cial step in brick­lay­ing. How­ever, momin’s good un­der­stand­ing of ge­om­e­try makes the task less daunt­ing for him.

naik feels that an­other of Ro­him’s strengths is that he knows when to use his hands and when to use his brain. “He pa­tiently lis­tens to every­one, un­der­stands what they’re say­ing, but then he de­cides what he has to do on his own.” naik feels that momin’s phys­i­cal fit­ness and stamina will also help him dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion. “He works for 10-12 hours straight ev­ery day. His con­cen­tra­tion is im­mense.”

most of the par­tic­i­pants pre­par­ing for Worldskills abu dhabi have gone for some form of for­eign train­ing or com­pe­ti­tion, in or­der to have an in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure and get used to the for­eign en­vi­ron­ment. momin, too, has come back from den­mark af­ter his par­tic­i­pa­tion in a train­ing camp. “i am per­haps the first per­son from my

“I was help­less. I had to quit school. I had to be the bread­win­ner for my fam­ily,” re­mem­bers Momin. The fact that he’d go on to rep­re­sent his coun­try in a com­pe­ti­tion con­sid­ered the ‘Olympics for Skills’ in a mat­ter of three years wouldn’t have been a piece of even his wildest imag­i­na­tion. And he ad­mits he still can’t be­lieve it.

vil­lage to visit a for­eign coun­try,” he says, beam­ing with pride.

Kav­ish Thak­wani, a steer­ing com­mit­tee mem­ber of Kushal Credai who has been an ex­pert part­ner of momin, says that af­ter momin’s re­turn from den­mark, his strat­egy has been re­vised a bit. a lot of new tools were pur­chased for him to prac­tise with. “The ma­te­rial used in the com­pe­ti­tion is, any­way, dif­fer­ent from what is used at the con­struc­tion sites. The bricks that Ro­him uses for practs­ing are avail­able at only one place in the coun­try; they come from Gu­jarat. only 20 per­cent of the ma­te­rial used is indige­nous, the rest is im­ported,” he adds.

While the prac­tice with the equip­ment is an im­por­tant ob­jec­tive of train­ing, Thak­wani feels that pre­par­ing the par­tic­i­pants psy­cho­log­i­cally for the gru­elling jour­ney is equally im­por­tant. “When you are deal­ing with peo­ple from un­der-priv­i­leged back­grounds, it’s im­por­tant to gain their trust. Ro­him had a lot of in­se­cu­rity is­sues. He was very de­fen­sive; had a frag­ile mind­set. He didn’t trust any­one. We can’t pres­surise him to lis­ten to [our ad­vice] in that phase. We had to be very pa­tient to gain his con­fi­dence,” he says. Momin had com­pleted his ed­u­ca­tion till 10th standard, so the train­ing was more soft skills-cen­tric in his case.

all in all, things have worked out quite well for momin af­ter tak­ing up the Worldskills chal­lenge. Two of his sis­ters are now mar­ried. He is still on the pay­roll of ATS in­fras­truc­ture as a su­per­vi­sor and plans to go back to work af­ter the com­pe­ti­tion. How­ever, like most of the past par­tic­i­pants, his stint with the com­pet­i­tive brick­lay­ing will be most likely over af­ter the in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, which does not al­low re-en­try of can­di­dates in the same cat­e­gory. also, the com­pe­ti­tion is held for only those com­peti­tors, who are be­low the age limit of 23 years (25 years for a few cat­e­gories) – leav­ing out a huge chunk of po­ten­tial can­di­dates.

can com­pe­ti­tions like the Worldskills do any­thing to ac­cel­er­ate the Skill in­dia mis­sion? “of course,” an­swers Jayant Kr­ishna, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of nsdc, which is a one-of-its-kind part­ner­ship be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor. “Skilling is still not con­sid­ered very as­pi­ra­tional in our coun­try. Peo­ple aim­lessly drift in the main­stream [higher] ed­u­ca­tion, even when they’re not so good with the stud­ies. This, i think, will cre­ate a huge amount of as­pi­ra­tional value and in­stil a sense of com­pe­ti­tion,” he be­lieves. He ac­knowl­edges that there is no strong cul­ture of such com­pe­ti­tions in the coun­try yet, but par­tic­i­pants do reap cer­tain ben­e­fits from the ven­ture, he feels.

“The min­istry of skill de­vel­op­ment is even pre­pared to give funds to the state gov­ern­ments to or­gan­ise this kind of com­pe­ti­tion. our par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Worldskills should even­tu­ally push for a cul­ture of com­pe­ti­tions for skills,” adds Kr­ishna. He also points out that the par­tic­i­pants in the past have seen a jump in both their des­ig­na­tions and salaries af­ter their re­turn from the com­pe­ti­tion, ir­re­spec­tive of whether they win or don’t. “once you have par­tic­i­pated in the com­pe­ti­tion, you are a cham­pion,” he adds.

momin agrees and feels that more and more peo­ple should find out about this skill and try to learn it, but does he dream to work to­wards that aim? He says, “my dream has al­ways been that i should have be­come a teacher. if there’s a way to make it hap­pen af­ter this com­pe­ti­tion, i would want to pur­sue that.”

“The min­istry of skill de­vel­op­ment is even pre­pared to give funds to the state gov­ern­ments to or­gan­ise this kind of com­pe­ti­tion. Our par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Worldskills should even­tu­ally push for cul­ture of com­pe­ti­tions for skills.” Jayant Kr­ishna Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and COO, NSDC

Ro­him Momin prac­tis­ing in Pune for the Worldskills Abu Dhabi con­test

One of Momin’s prac­tice mod­els

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