Towards employment

Unemployment has caused crisis in Jammu and Kashmir. As of 2017, Unemployment rate in the state was higher than the average National unemployment rate, with J&K having 24.6% of the population (in the age of 18-29 years) unemployed. This is far more than the pan India unemployment rate of 13.2%, as revealed by official statistics. They add that unemployment rate in the age group of 18-29 years is highest among females at 45.1 percent, while among male in the same age group, the rate is at 17.8 percent.

Amid this dismal situation, we have seen the Government of India over the years coming up with some schemes. The foremost and most well-conceived amongst these is Udaan.

Udaan is a Special Industry Initiative for Jammu & Kashmir in the nature of partnership between the corporate houses of India and Ministry of Home Affairs and implemented by National Skill Development Corporation.

The programme aims to provide skills training and enhance the employability of unemployed youth of J&K. The Scheme covers graduates, post graduates and three year engineering diploma holders.

It has the twin objectives of providing an exposure to the unemployed graduates to the best of Corporate India, and providing Corporate India an exposure to the rich talent pool available in the State.

While the target of Udaan, when it was launched in 2013, was to reach out to 57,000 youths in J&K over a period of five years, officials said they were able to train more than 30,000 youths, of whom more than 15,000 people were placed with domestic and multinational companies as of 2017. That is not bad at all.

More than five years after it was started by the previous UPA government, the Centre has decided to withdraw Udaan scheme in Jammu and Kashmir due to lack of enthusiasm among the youth to work outside the state.

The decision to withdraw it, it is learnt, was based on multiple factors, including the fact that not many youths showed interest in taking up employment outside the Valley, and MNCs were unable to provide all opportunities in Kashmir.

This decision was taken from January 2019, and we regret it. However, another thriving scheme is the PMKVY. Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) is the flagship scheme of the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE).

The objective of this Skill Certification Scheme is to enable a large number of J&K youth to take up industry-relevant skill training that will help them in securing a better livelihood. Individuals with prior learning experience or skills are also to be assessed and certified under Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). This has also been a popular outreach program for the youth.

Next in the tally features the Himayat scheme.  Himayat is a placement linked skill development initiative for training and placement of 1 lakh J&K youth in about 5 years. It is a part of the Skill Empowerment and Employment scheme of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). ‘Himayat’ is an Urdu word which means support, advocacy or protection.

The project envisions support for the youth of J&K by providing them with vocational training linked to placement in various sectors like IT, Customer Service and Sales, Hospitality and the like.

As an implementing partner, IL&FS envisages to be a leading contributor in accelerating social and economic development in J&K. Moreover, a beautiful legacy of the UPA government remains the Umeed (Hope) scheme – a Government of India funded flagship project to empower women in conflict-ridden Kashmir, launched in June 2013.

The scheme was made possible only after a group of students from Kashmir University visited Ameeti (UP) to study the model and its successful implementation.

The project is aimed at encouraging rural women to make small savings so that their SHGs will eventually become bankable at reduced rate of interest. Rahul announced that Rs 755 crore centrally funded Umeed project will be implemented across the state involving 900 thousand women in 143 blocks, covering 4,098 panchayats of the state.

The government roped in SUPR, an Andhra Pradesh based company to train and guide groups in J&K. SUPR is to send Community Resource Persons (CRPs) and Professional Resource Persons (PRPs) to make people understand how to come out of the poverty. This again, has been a much acclaimed scheme.

Having said that, there still remains a lot more for the government to attempt in the state with a base population of 1.25 crores. Foremost would be to not to petulantly discontinue a scheme if it does not produce the expected enthusiasm and results. Instead, it seems wiser to look into why the youth is not responding.

For instance, under the Udaan scheme, the youth was hesitant to work outside J&K. Clearly, there has to be a reason to this mass opinion – is it that they don’t feel safe enough in mainland India? Is it that they do not understand the potential of working there? Do they undervalue their own capabilities? Are they afraid of too much competition? Unless the Centre puts in place certain outreach programmes to address these looming questions, no scheme is likely to tap maximum potential.

This brings in the larger concept of reducing geographical immobility of labour. Many people have the right skills to find fresh work but factors such as high housing prices and housing rents, family and social ties and regional differences in the cost of living make it difficult and sometimes impossible to change location in order to get a new job. Many economists point to a persistently low level of new house-building as a major factor impeding labour mobility and the chances of finding new work.

Moving on, it would largely benefit the state if the Centre were to work on giving a push to the production side of economics via new and progressive schemes. The more we produce, the more we create potential to export and that will,  in turn, lubricate our markets with sufficient money.

This availability of economy in market can create amounts that can be given away as wage, and hence create multiple employment opportunities. Lastly, no suggestion or appeal for alleviating the pains of J&K is complete without referencing the state’s natural bounties.

With three vastly different geographical terrains in the three major zones of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. This terrain can allow for various agricultural experiments to be held within the state, and this very feature could be cultivated by attracting agricultural researchers and scientists to the state by investing in suitable infrastructure.

This would provide the dual benefit of creating a sub-sector that generates employment, as well as retain as well as enhance the delicate environmental balance of our flora and fauna, even as the world is gripped in the clutches of incessant global warming and unsustainability.

With these pointers in mind, we urge the Centre to heed the employment scenario of the state, lest the numbers spill out of control.