Author: Saadut
•10:47 PM

The state government recently unveiled a new recruitment policy according to which non-gazetted recruits in J&K will be paid a fixed monthly salary equivalent to 50 per cent of the basic pay for the first two years. For the next three years the new non gazetted employees would be entitled to a fixed salary of 75 per cent of the basic pay. Only after completion of five years in stipendiary mode will the employee be entitled to a prescribed pay band and all other allowances as applicable to government employees, subject to "good performance, conduct and the vigilance clearance".

Even as the policy was announced it faced a lot of criticism on the ground, the stipend of 3000 to 5000 for a government employee was seen as a crude joke for job aspirants. Political parties were also seen raising a pitch against the new job policy. How much is Rs 3000 for a family these days and how much sustenance can you expect for such an amount? Many youth have questioned the government in adopting dual standards for keeping the gazetted posts out of the stipendiary policy. Incidentally the government has already done away with the full pension scheme since January, 2010.

On Saturday 5th November 2011, Jammu and Kashmir High Court Saturday stayed the government order, observing that the new recruitment policy “exploits the human talent”, and asked the state to file objections within three weeks. The court was hearing a writ petition against the new job policy of the state.

Incidentally an earlier policy of recruiting employees under the ‘Rehbar’ scheme stands already implemented where government teachers were appointed as ‘Rehbar-e-Taleem’ for a paltry 1500 per month for 2 years and after 2 years for 2000 for the next 3 years. A similar scheme also stands implemented in the Agriculture department as ‘Rehbar-e-Ziraat’. Irony is that the five years of service of these ‘Rehbars’ may not be counted as part of their service period at all.

Accumulating Unemployment

According to a survey conducted by the Chatham House (UK) sometime back, 96 per cent of respondents from the Kashmir Valley identified unemployment as one of the main problems facing the state, along with conflict and mounting corruption. Add to this the 2008 survey conducted by Transparency International where Jammu & Kashmir was put in the “alarmingly corrupt” category.  A report by US based NGO notices that “Jobs are few, and those that are available are often filled through elite connections and nepotism measures”. As of December 2010 the number of officially registered unemployed youth touched almost 6,00,000 (The Jammu and Kashmir government official  figures of December 2010 were 5,97,332). The actual number is much higher than reported in these government figures, considering the fact that many of the unemployed youth may not have registered with the government employment exchange. With more and more educated youth entering the job market in Kashmir, the situation is moving from bad to worse. It is not only the college graduates that are in the waiting for a job now, many of the jobless in the state now are highly specialized professionals with PhD’s, medical doctors and technical specialists. As per a report an estimated 48 % of the employable youth are currently unemployed, a figure which is alarmingly high considering that this youth bracket (of 18 to 30 years) forms the 71% of the population (census 2001). As per the report, the average number of earners in the families of unemployed persons was two while the average number of dependents was six, clearly signifying that the dependents to earners ratio in families was 1:3.

Unemployment stress:

Many of the unemployed youth in Kashmir are victims of stress and depression. According to a survey conducted by Action Aid International in Srinagar, Budgam and Pulwama districts of Kashmir valley nearly 29 per cent of the unemployed youth (male) surveyed smoke cigarettes in order to reduce anxiety and tension. There have been reported incidents of youth taking refuge in sedative drugs in the valley. According to the same survey as many as 12 per cent of the respondents, (including females) took sleeping pills to overcome stress. The high levels of unemployment and stress in the valley have also affected upon the marriage prospects of these youth creating more problems in the social setup.

Private Sector?

The private sector in Kashmir has never been a dominating force, while pre 90’s it was trying to gather some strength, post 90’s it collapsed due to the turmoil and the state apathy towards it. Soon industrial estates became camps for security forces and infrastructure crumbled. State industrial focus shifted to Jammu and with it also shifted massive capital influx and infrastructure development; Kashmir remained a ghost house. As of today majority of market products sold in Kashmir are manufactured outside of the valley, mostly in Jammu. The local industry has not been able to get a hold on its own, its reach is limited and employability is negligible. In the absence of a vibrant private sector in Kashmir, the government has always been seen as the employer of first preference and the last resort by the youth. There have been success stories of entrepreneurs in Kashmir, but they have been few and such success has come in spite of decades of state apathy towards this sector.

The state governments own experience with corporations has not been good with negative revenue. Most of it corporations are loss making which include J&K Handicrafts (S&E) Corporation ltd, JK Handloom Development Corporation Ltd , JK Industries Ltd , State Industrial Development Corporation, Small Scale Industries Development Corporation Ltd, JK Minerals Ltd, JK Horticulture Production and Processing Ltd, JK Agro Industries Development Corporation Ltd and J&KSRTC. Hence any hope of employment generation in these corporations is virtually nonexistent, except for a few ‘government nominated’ post fillings. Not only are the sick corporations eating into the state’s economic health, they have become a drain on the exchequer. The health of state finances could be gauged by the fact that the fiscal liabilities of the state increased from Rs 13,038 crore in 2003-04 to Rs 24,287 crore in 2008-09 and 28,735 crore in 2009-10 (CAG report for the year ended March 31, 2010). The call for disinvestment of loss making PSU’s grew stronger, for such disinvestment would not only help to generate much needed resources for the state but also make them economically viable and allow them to generate more employment avenues. But till date the government seems to be holding these corporations close to its own chest, letting the loss of these entities bleed its own purse.

National corporations like NHPC in Kashmir have also been denying locals their rightful share in employment. As per agreement between NHPC and Jammu and Kashmir government (1975), NHPC is bound to employ 50 per cent of its employees from the state in its projects in Jammu and Kashmir. But this agreement has not been followed by NHPC who have employed majority of non local employees in their projects in the state. According to sources 90% of engineers appointed by NHPC during 1999-2010 are from outside state.(The loot by NHPC of Kashmir natural resources has already been detailed in an earlier blog)

Minuscule number of Kashmiri youth have been trying careers outside the state, but more often than not most of these are the ones who might have initially ventured out for educational purposes and then continued there with career advancements.

A seed capital fund scheme launched by the state government for promoting SME among the unemployed youth has not been able to generate much enthusiasm in the state. The MSME sector may not have picked up to that extent partly because of lack of entrepreneur training with the unemployed youth, lack of market support for local products and dismal infrastructure in the valley which has been hampering industrial growth.

While the government cannot be the only employer hope for the aspirants, it lacks positive steps for mitigating this problem. The key to this problem could lie in creating financial self sustenance in the state, by which the local economy could create its own employment avenues. Kashmir civil society has already been demanding the return of power projects to the state which could turn the financial imbalance in favor of the common people. In fact Kashmir has turned into a consuming state where most of its needs are fed by products imported from outside the state. For creating a self sustaining model the government has to lay focus on production avenues in Kashmir. The government has also not succeeded in persuading any major business house to set base and tap the human capital of Kashmir in a big way. On the contrary some IT SME’s shifted base from Srinagar to Jammu in the last few years.

Unless the government does not do away with the ‘look up to Delhi for funds’ and create capacities in the local market for sustenance, no job schemes will work here. Trade and craftsmanship that survived centuries in Kashmir are dying due to state neglect; modern technology does not yield here due to crumbling infrastructure and failure to create human skill sets and product marketing opportunities. The neglect to the local economy has been for long; it will take more than a mere symbolic scheme or plan to recover.

But is the government really interested in letting Kashmir be economically self-sufficient? May be the political rhetoric does not want to see translated into practice. 
As Nehru once famously said in Parliament "I'll bind Kashmiri’s in chains of gold."

16th November 2011

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