Only hope to tackle the problem is if high potential youth turn into job providers instead of job seekers
Going through difficult times, Jammu and Kashmir faces a number of challenges on its economic and development front. A major problem, that has emerged over the years, is the rising unemployment.
As per government figures J&K has more than six lakh unemployed youth. Besides there is huge number of underemployed persons, who are being engaged contractually, as casual labour and working in unorganised sector, which aggravates the problem and puts more pressure on the state.
Due to lack of any substantial private sector, state government is the only significant employer in J&K providing more than four lakh jobs. Government employee to population ratio in the state has been described highest in the world, putting huge burden on the beleaguered state economy with negligible resources generation.
In this grim situation, the only hope seems if the high potential youth of the state turn into job providers instead of job seekers by venturing into entrepreneurship. Though there has been some effort in this regard and today’s “Endevour” is full of such examples with number of success stories. But the effort needs to be escalated, with the new entrepreneurs to venture into services and manufacturing sectors beyond food business and trade, which has been the traditional fortress in Kashmir.
Though full of challenges, the politico-economic instability J&K went through in past two decades opens up lot of opportunities for the small businesses and risk-taking entrepreneurs. As the world has been dominated by the MNCs and big businesses, the field in J&K is open for young entrepreneurs and small businesses as due to political uncertainty there are not many chances of these big fish coming to Kashmir in near future.
With just more than Rs 85,000 crore economy, J&K imports goods and services worth about Rs 40,000 crore, putting imports to GDP ratio to about 50 percent, which is a worst situation for any economy. And in this worst situation lies the opportunity for young generation of Kashmir, as experts believe that more than 50 percent of state’s imports can be manufactured and produced locally. Besides, the traditional crafts, fruit industry and tourism can earn huge foreign reserve, if services are improved and modern infrastructure lay down proves a force multiplier for job creation.
However, the impression is that existing system and government setup, which plays a major role in creating an entrepreneurship friendly environment and a facilitator for business by providing infrastructural facilities and utilities is not helping enough. In a recent World Bank study, which gauged the business friendly environment of Indian states, J&K appeared in the bottom top, only after northeastern states. This clearly indicates that bureaucratic hassle, lack of work culture and corruption is prevalent in the state setup.
J&K has established an Entrepreneurship Development Institution (EDI), to provide help and guidance to unemployed youth, who want to become entrepreneurs. However, EDI has limited it self to DPR formation and loan disbursement. It has become an agency, which acts more like a government department for running a self-employment scheme. It conducts a training capsule, prepares a project report of a candidate and helps him in sanctioning a loan from J&K Bank. It has little or no liaison with other government departments to help the candidates for the business registration and overcoming other formalities like acquiring operating spaces, land in industrial area etc. Being an entrepreneurship development institute, it should operate as a one-stop place where an aspiring entrepreneur gets all required help. Rather it should be a single window for startups fulfilling the requirements and help in all the procedures required of them at one place so that they don’t have to face those bureaucratic hassles which plagues local system here.
Besides there is dearth of a business incubation center for young entrepreneurs and EDI should provide that. Another big challenge for the people who want to say no to government jobs and do something on their own is lack of information and knowledge. So far there has been little effort to fulfill this knowledge gap where educated youth who want to start a business will receive all the information about opportunities in the business and industrial sector, which have potential and are viable to be carried out in the valley. There are a number of examples where unemployed youth in desperation of doing something to earn their livelihood venture into unviable areas of businesses resulting in failure of these ventures. This kind of situation adds to their unemployment problem with a mounting debt to be liquidated.
It is for the government to create an enabling environment that youth find a reason to endeavor self-employment and entrepreneurship. The task is ambitious but achievable if the raw potential is harnessed well.