Skill development to be given priority, says Jaitley

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the government will stress on skill development so that a trained workforce can galvanise the economy, even as trade unions urged him not allow FDI in defence, railways and retail.

"Skill development will be given priority so that more and more trained workers enter the economy," according to an official statement after Jaitley met representatives of central trade unions.

Jaitley said the government would give "due consideration" to the 10-point joint charter of demands submitted by the unions during the pre-budget meeting.

This was Jaitley's third pre-budget consultation following meetings yesterday with representatives from the agriculture and social sectors.

Minister of State for Finance Nirmala Sitharaman and senior officials of the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Labour and Employment were present at the meeting.

Representatives of the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Indian National Trade Union Congress, All India Trade Union Congress and Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), among others, participated in the meeting.

In their charter, the unions said that "FDI should not be allowed in crucial sectors like defence production, telecommunications, railways, financial sector, retail trade, education, health and media."

Their other demands include strengthening and expansion of public sector units and a halt to disinvestment of profit making state-owned enterprises.

CITU's General Secretary Tapan Sen said that to contain rising prices, futures trading and speculation in the commodity markets should be banned.

The unions also want proper allocation of funds for the 7th Pay Commission, raising the income tax exemption ceiling for the salaried class to Rs 5 lakh and 'massive' investment in infrastructure to stimulate the economy for job creation.

The trade unions also sought post-budget meetings with the finance ministry, they said in a statement.

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