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India, UK partnering for development

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Andrew Ayre, British Deputy High CommissionerThere is a proper plan in place on each one of the pillars of cooperation and the proposed Sister City Agreement between Chandigarh and Nottingham has certain terms and conditions as to how they will be having a team of people from each side who could oversee the plan over the next five years, says Andrew Ayre, British Deputy High Commissioner, Chandigarh, in conversation with Priya Yadav of Elets News Network (ENN).

What are the key areas of cooperation between Nottingham and Chandigarh and how exactly the association between the two cities is going to work?

Smart Cities is one of the pillars of cooperation between the two sister cities because of the renewed focus of the Indian government to develop Chandigarh as a Smart City after it was shortlisted under the Smart Cities Mission. Nottingham has developed expertise in some particular components of Smart Cities like smart transport. For example, the UK city recently launched a fleet of electric buses. So, that’s an example wherein Chandigarh can learn as they too have ambitious plans to renew the whole transport system and switch to low carbon or low emission transport system.

Likewise, there are other engagements and waste management is one of them. It could also include the integrated command and control system, which can be used to control the whole city traffic on a computer system. There is a proper plan in place on each one of the pillars of cooperation and the proposed Sister City Agreement has certain terms and conditions as to how they will be having a team of people from each side who could oversee the plan over the next five years. Each side will explore sources of funding and then jointly execute all the projects for both the cities.

One of the other areas of cooperation is culture and sports, which could mean celebrating Diwali in Nottingham or some Nottingham festival in Chandigarh. In the field of education, we already have tie ups in place between the universities in Nottingham — Nottingham Trent University and University of Nottingham — and the Punjab University. They are working together and supporting each other from the academic point of view. They have a parallel relationship going on and have some plans for the next five years in terms of student exchanges.

The student exchange programmes can be adopted not only on the university level but also at the school level so that a group of students from primary or higher secondary schools can go to Nottingham and learn about the UK and likewise students from Nottingham can learn more about the Indian cultural system. For example, recently a group of 20 students from Nottingham University came to India on a two-week exchange programme and they went back with a very high opinion of India. The same level of excitement and feeling will be seen in Indian students visiting the UK. It is these kinds of exchanges that make it a real experience. We can produce papers and write about it but it is people to people engagement that makes this kind of relationship work. I believe there was an MoU signed between the Punjab Government and the UK government for skill development.

Could you throw some light as to what is being done in this area?

Skill development is a very big area of interest for the UK and India is an active market for skills. Punjabi parents and I guess Haryana parents too want their children to get the best possible education and we understand that. The UK has 8 of the 20 leading universities of the world and they are strongly attracted to Indian families. So they come here and they do road shows to reach out. They have done a lot of work on the skill side and they promote that. We have a scholarship called Chevening, which is a flagship scholarship programme of the UK government. We also have a bunch of scholarships which are less known. So, they have been able to underpin the finances of some of the students who want to study in the United Kingdom.

In terms of Punjab government’s skill development mission, a year ago the UK signed an MoU with the Punjab government and it committed skill providers through this office to drive a skill development programme for Punjabi youth. The idea being that technical education would be carried out in various centres of Punjab so that people who went through the course would get internationally recognised certificate which would enable them to improve their employment prospects either in the state or outside state for even abroad if that was something they wanted to pursue.

Since this programme has been built from scratch, it is taking some time to see the outcomes. The skill centres have been identified, the skills providing organisations have been identified, the courses have been identified and worked out. In fact, very soon I will be signing the first contract between a UK-based skills provider and the Punjab government. The focus of some of these training programmes will include training air conditioning engineers and motor mechanics or people who want to work in the wellness industry — any area that the Punjab government and the UK government have identified through this office where there are real vacancies. This is not a programme to give people just a piece of paper and nothing at the end of it. There are vacancies in certain areas and we can actually make use of it. For example, we did some research with an education provider which identified more than 55000 job vacancies for air conditioning technicians in the Gulf. We are not employment givers but employment creators. We empower people.

What exactly is being done on the solid waste management front?

We did a consultancy project for Chandigarh Administration in the last financial year (2016-17) and Nottingham City Council delivered this project. We did a series of workshops with the UT Administration basically to first understand the process – what are the kinds of waste that is being produced or the segregation process which is one of the biggest challenges Chandigarh faces. The UK has a different system as the segregation of waste there is done at the source itself so it becomes easier for them. Also, the waste being produced in other cities is being processed in Nottingham, which has a very big plant to burn the waste and produce heat that can then be used to heat homes in the city. But here it’s a bit different. Through this project, Nottingham City Council tried to give Chandigarh different scenarios based on different kinds of waste being produced in the city so as to give them an idea what best can work for them – whether it is an incinerator or plasma technology or some other technology, and how much of it can go to landfill. Two weeks ago, they actually came up with a tender on plastic to fuel plant. So, this is how we engage with them. This sister city agreement between the two cities would further help them actually implementing projects.

Can you share with us the details of work being done in Jalandhar and Chandigarh?

One of the biggest projects in Jalandhar at the moment is the sports facility they are building which will be one of the best in Punjab. The state government already has a stadium in Mohali but now the entire focus is on Jalandhar. They want to build a state-of-the-art world-class facility where you could host international matches of cricket, football or any other sports. More importantly, the facility can sustain itself throughout the year. We usually hold events at facilities for a couple of days and then most of the time these remain idle but at Jalandhar that would not be the situation.

For sustaining the facility there is a proposal of paid membership based club facility which will become a revenue model for sustaining it over a period of time. Coming back to Chandigarh, UK’s Department for International Development is planning to do a project with Chandigarh Administration. For this, discussions are going on and based on their inputs and what UK has to offer we may take up projects in smart governance or smart parking management or it could be transport. Hopefully it will happen soon.

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