Rs 1.5 billion internship programme grounded

ISLAMABAD: The caretaker government has stopped the implementation of a Rs 1.5 billion programme launched by the Shaukat Aziz government to provide employment skills to youth on the grounds of its being an extra burden on the Centre, following the categorical refusal of the provinces to share the fiscal load, sources told The News on Friday.

“All the four provinces responded in a clear no to the federal government on the question of sharing financial responsibility to continue the much- publicised National Internship Programme (NIP),” the sources in the Establishment Division maintained.

Caretaker Prime Minister Muhammadmian Soomro had asked the authorities concerned to leave the fate of the NIP up to the elected government as no province was ready to contribute four-fifths of the total funding nor the Centre was willing to increase its fiscal deficit.

“As its practical implementation stands stopped, the programme involving Rs 1,500 million annually is virtually in jeopardy as the next government may or may not go ahead with it,” the sources said.

Started in 2007 with a big bang and tall claims of the Q-League government, the NIP was initiated under the Establishment Division to provide practical training to 25,000 jobless master degree holders every year with a fixed stipend of Rs 10,000 monthly.

The caretaker premier, chairing a high-level meeting with the authorities concerned, had ordered the finance department a few weeks back to ensure that the federating units also discharged their responsibilities in terms of finance as the Centre was required to contribute only one-fifth of the funds.

This year the NIP administration received applications from throughout the country and March 1, 2008 was the deadline for applying online. “There is a complete standstill after the finance ministry’s categorical refusal to provide funds like the previous year.”

The process of selection according to the laid down criteria had been completed in the last two weeks, thus, causing great concern among the youth.

According to available information, nearly 50,000 youth complete sixteen years of education from recognized universities and the time gap between the completion of education and job availability in majority of cases results in a sense of frustration and waste of potential energy.

The scheme was intended to provide financial relief to fresh graduates and also to keep them engaged and interested in acquiring additional knowledge and real-work life experiences, thereby, facilitating their employability in the country.

Under the scheme, the internees were assigned to different ministries, divisions, attached departments, autonomous bodies and corporations of the federal and provincial governments for one year.

The former Secretary Establishment Division, Syed Tariq Ali Bokhari, who was amongst the pioneers of the NIP Scheme, expressed his indifference over the stoppage of the programme. “I do not think that it has been halted as everything was going smoothly to provide internship facility to those youth who are less than 25 years of age and are educated from recognised educational institutes,” Bokhari further said.

Source: The News