Our labor market (including our artisanship) has been completely taken over by outsiders. Skills, like stone carving, tin-roofing, waazwaan, maintaining lawn and kitchen-garden are a few works left where we need Kashmiri artisans. From domestic help to contractors and now tutors, we have all men available from outside. As per the estimates, there are over 10 lakh migrant workers mostly masons, carpenters, barbers etc from Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, Punjab, Assam etc, working in Kashmir, besides others who are permanently working in farms, hotels, restaurants, shops and manufacturing units- draining billions of rupees from Kashmir every month. When we are able to provide employment to such a huge number of outsiders, why we have huge unemployment problems in Kashmir? This is really a grave issue and we need to find its solution.
Though Kashmiri's have a huge potential to do any kind of job with perfection but over a period of time we have developed a lazy work culture and poor attitude towards work. Today nearly 70% of our laborers, artisans and other workers lack hard and soft skills. They do not meet their quality and quantity of service, goal and deadline, which they firmly assert at the start of taking the assignment. Their attitude, temperament and ego problem has largely been damaging for the whole society. All the time one has to remain alert and watchful to see what our artisans are doing and huge money is wasted when one doesn't find ones work appropriately done and next day one has to dismantle or repair the whole work. I have seen many young educated plumbers boasting about the training in ITIs etc and the huge demand they have from the public but when they were given a chance of bathroom fitting, their work proved to be all ridiculous. They didn't complete their contract and when they were contacted on phone they hardly responded but never appeared to complete their work or rectify the faults.
On the other hand, we have seen migrant workers are largely professional, technically sound and focused. They have many other qualities like punctuality, honesty and willingness to work which has gained our trust. They have travelled and worked in many Indian states and even some have gone outside the country and gained a lot of exposure in various works. They are living a hard life and work for them is very important. If they don't work they will starve. We must appreciate them that they travel a long distance to feed themselves and their families but do not resort to theft or other immoral activities. We must credit them for playing a crucial role in our demographic assets, filling a critical gap in the State's labor market. It is because of these good qualities of migrant workers that they have marked their presence felt everywhere, collecting our wealth while our local workers are sitting idle in their homes.
The unemployment problems in Kashmir can be traced partly to, lack of dignity of labor, lack of exposure of our workers and turmoil in the region. A friend of mine living in the west says that in the developed countries, people who work manually are highly skilled and hard working. Their work is target oriented and they never comprise on quality and this ensures them a very good living. He believes the people in Kashmir are not ready to work result-oriented basis and are constantly looking for easy life in government jobs and elsewhere. He says 'how lucrative it would be for a graduate who opts for say Carpentering? With his knowledge and modern tools of the trade and exposure to outside world through Internet, he can make a very good living'. But majority of the areas of such type of employment in this part of the world are looked down upon. Our qualified youth are not ready to take up such jobs as we have created untenable imaginary social standards.
In the year 2001 a scholar in the commerce stream in higher education deptt wrote a research paper titled "Imported Labor and Its Impact on J & K Economy" wherein he has mentioned manifold multiplier effect of external labor on money drain, inflation, growing syndrome of economic dependence, fading skill based earning avenues, etc. But even today the fact remains that whether it is construction of buildings, roads, carpentry or the work in brick kilns or apple orchards we simply cannot do without migrant laborers. The rise in the migrant population certainly exerts more pressure on our natural resources, influences our socio-cultural environment besides posing a threat to the health of our people through their poor standards of living.
What is going to be our future? We are caught in an irreversible situation. The unemployability factor of our workers will be a greatest challenge for any Govt in the days to come. The need of the hour is take some measures like professionalizing all skills, reviving traditional art on modern lines and introducing structural changes in the education system to address skill deficiency. The Govt must restructure and take control of our Labour Industry. Rigorous short trainings in hard and soft skills must be given to our artisans and other workers through Engineers and other experts.They must be made to understand that, market is driven by skill, service, interest and trust. Once we eliminate our drawbacks and ensure a disciplined and dignified life in this sector, our workers will surely strive for quality service. By this way, we can retain our earning here and at the same time we can increase the employability for others and secure their livelihood.