Author: Saadut
•6:17 PM

However, I am also concerned that many youth from Jammu and Kashmir and especially from Srinagar feel disillusioned due to the lack of economic opportunities. I can imagine the disillusionment of those who have received education in premier institutions like the Sher-e-Kashmir University and yet cannot find good employment. In cooperation with the State Government, we will make every possible effort to create adequate employment opportunities in Jammu and Kashmir”, “Main jaanta hoon ki behtareen taaleem haasil karne ke baad bhi kam mauqe milne se kis qadr maayoosi hoti hai” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking in Srinagar on June 7th 2010. Two years down the line the conditions on ground are worse than ever before, all rhetoric notwithstanding. As the army of educated and unemployed in Kashmir keeps exponentially growing, the avenues and opportunities here keep shrinking. 

Recently for 46 vacancies of sub staff (Class IV posts) advertised by the J&K Handicrafts department for seven districts of Kashmir valley, almost 38,000 applications were received. In North Kashmir Baramulla district against seven posts almost 6000 applications were received, in Srinagar against eight posts, 7700 applications were received. In South Kashmir Kulgam district against four posts almost 4500 applications were received while Pulwama district received 2910 applications against four posts and Shopian district received 2150 applications against two posts. Ganderbal District received 1200 applications for three posts, while Budgam district received 4400 applications for 19 posts.  

Most of the applications received were from youth who were highly qualified. Although the desired qualification for the said posts was higher secondary pass out only (10+2 school), but surprisingly many of the candidates who had applied were MBA’s, M Phil, Engineering graduates and even Ph D’s. For most of these candidates it was a hard choice between sacrificing their educational credentials for supporting family or waiting for that ever elusive opportunity in line with their educational qualifications.

As per government data, the number of unemployed youth registered with them stood at 6.01 lacs ending September 2011 (The Jammu and Kashmir government official figures of December 2010 were 5,97,332). Of these numbers more than 85,000 are graduates, more than 20,000 post graduates, 40,559 are professionals and 3,695 are other skilled youth. The actual number of unemployed youth in Kashmir is far greater than the official number, as many of the unemployed many not have registered themselves with the government agencies.

An earlier report by a US based NGO remarked that “Jobs (in Kashmir) are few, and those that are available are often filled through elite connections and nepotism measures”. Another survey conducted sometime back by UK based Chatham House had found that 96 percent of respondents from Kashmir Valley identified unemployment as one of the main problems facing the state, along with conflict and mounting corruption. Transparency International had already tagged J&K state as “alarmingly corrupt” (Report of 2008). 

All claims of the state government for addressing this problem have proved to be hollow rhetoric till date. In 2010, the J&K government founded the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Overseas Employment Corporation’ as one of its flagship employment generation programs to help educated, unemployed youth connect to career avenues outside the country. Even after two years of its foundation, the J&K Overseas Employment Corporation has failed to facilitate even a single educated unemployed youth in any job. Not surprisingly the corporation under the chairmanship of Chief Minister has met only once in these two years, in January 2011 (that being its first meeting). According to reports (KM 1st December 2011) for the first year the ‘Government had even failed to register it (JKOEC) as recruiting agency with Central government which is mandatory for any agency which facilitates employment opportunities in the country’. 

Moving out of Kashmir for jobs is no less problematic. There has been an increase in dropout rate of Kashmiri youth who had been trained and given placement (under the Himayat Program) at entry level jobs in various companies in India. Under this program, since December last year about one thousand skilled youth from Kashmir had been trained and placed. Even during this short duration since their placement, more than 25 per cent of them had to quit due prejudices and apathy against them. As per Jairam Ramesh (Rural Development Minister GOI) "One important reason is that in places like Delhi, Chandigarh, Shimla, Jaipur... landlords are not willing to give accommodation to Kashmiri’s," The ‘atoot ang’ theory again fell flat for these Kashmiri’s in practical life in India. 

As if the half hearted, failed initiatives for alleviating unemployment in the state were not enough, now the government seems to be toying with the idea of increasing the retirement age of state employees from the present 58 years to 60 years. A high-level committee headed by state Chief Secretary, has already submitted its recommendations regarding the enhancement of retirement age to the government. The report is likely to be placed before the state Cabinet after the budget session this month. As per reports there is likelihood that the government may give a go ahead for the increase of retirement age to 60. If this happens the state will have created a bigger vacuum between the meager (and often seen as preferentially distributed) availability of already scarce jobs and the behemothic army of unemployed. The state machinery that urgently needs a change, which needs to shed its ‘alarmingly corrupt’ image, could surely have done better with new infusion rather than continuity of an old order.  Not only will the extension of retirement age close doors for whatever meager opportunities that may have existed, it will also finely trip the balance of many youth over the ‘age bar’ threshold, beyond which their career hopes are totally erased.

With an almost negligible private sector, especially in Kashmir, the government is ‘employer of the first preference and last resort’ for these unemployed youth in the state. Ironically neither has the government been able to rope in major private sector players for avenue generation, infrastructure and industry development in the state nor has it been able to open up available vistas within the government sector for these youth. Creation of new avenues was still far fetched; the government has not even been able to ensure that national corporations like NHPC honor their agreements regarding employing locals in their projects in Jammu and Kashmir. As per agreement (of 1975) between Jammu and Kashmir government and NHPC, the NHPC shall ensure that 50 per cent of its employees in Jammu and Kashmir are from the state itself. Contrary to the agreement, NHPC have employed majority of non state employees in their projects in J&K. According to sources 90% of engineers appointed by NHPC during 1999-2010 are from outside state.

The government’s half hearted attempts at creation of fair opportunities for the youth coupled with the proposed enhancement of retirement age will surely ‘prematurely retire’ any hopes of employment for many of the educated, unemployed. Such a step will not only ensure continuity of the same apathy driven state machinery, stalling infusion of any positive change, but also push these youth to the extreme. And this ‘mayoosi’ that PM Manmohan Singh hinted at in Srinagar when he said “Main jaanta hoon ki behtareen taaleem haasil karne ke baad bhi kam mauqe milne se kis qadr maayoosi hoti hai” has the potential to lead to wider unrest.

15th March , 2012

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