Tracking the electoral political scene in the neighboring state of Himachal Pradesh one notices how the issue of drug abuse has invited the attention of political parties.
The two leading parties BJP and Congress have one thing in common in their poll campaign -the urge to rid the state of menace of drugs if elected to power.
Reportedly Himachal Pradesh has recorded highest number of Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) cases after Punjab. In 2017 Bollywood brought the issue of “narco-politics” out in the open through fictitious movie “Udta Punjab” flying Punjab.
Come elections in Jammu and Kashmir the issue of drug abuse will figure prominently in the campaigning of contesting political formations. The drug abuse and unemployment have become political issues in state politics in India.
The entire law enforcement structure in alliance with educational institutions are involved in the campaign against drugs and situation is increasingly becoming difficult on account of myriad reasons which ought to have become subject-matter of discussion at multiple levels.
It is appropriate to have a rough estimate of the problem in three neighboring states which are simultaneously experiencing demographic change. We feel strongly that creating more and more productive and profitable jobs can be a necessary intervention to save the life and living of the young.
Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir
The three neighboring states stand badly affected by menace of drug abuse and need to evolve a collaborative and coordinated action plan to destroy the drug economy.
The scale of drug use has been on the rise in the hilly state of Himachal Pradesh and as per the 2021 National Crime Records Bureau Report Himachal recorded the second highest number of cases under the Narcotics Drugs and psychotropic Substance Act (NDPS) 1985 after neighboring Punjab.
The use and abuse of drugs was never an election issue in Himachal. Addressing a rally at Chamba recently, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said: BJP will make the state drug free if voted back to power, adding that the party will give Himachal youth a foray into new opportunities”.
The fact that 25 to 27 percent of youth below 40 years of age take drugs is bound to make it a poll issue. In 2017 elections in Punjab PM Modi agitated the issue and Congress party on its part attacked BJP/Akali Dal coalition government of being soft towards the drug racket operative in Punjab.
According to a study conducted by the community Medicine Department of PG Institute of Medical Education and Research over 03 million people accounting to 15.4 percent Punjab population are consuming one or the other kind of drugs. For youth in jJammu and Kashmir apart from pressures of unemployment drug abuse has become an escape route from uncertainty and hopelessness that has engulfed the region.
According to a report by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre ( AIIMS ) over 06 lakh people in Jammu and Kashmir are victims of drug abuse and 90 percent of whom are in the age group 17 to 33 years. The ugly dimension of the problem is that women are increasingly becoming victims of the menace. Last month a twenty year young man from Waghama village Bijbehara died in sleep due to overdose of drugs.
The three states discussed above share many things apart from a common neighborhood. First, Himachal and Kashmir are hilly states and are dependent upon government jobs. As hilly states these were entitled to a special treatment as special category states. Both states face the problem of educated unemployed youth.
The growth and development of agriculture and horticulture in two states has seen ups and downs. The private investment has largely escaped both states and hence acute crisis of development. From the other side Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab are border states and are in the line of fire when it comes to drug trade through the international border.
Second, both states saw massive destruction during long years of militancy and youth became the cannon fodder in the conflict. The private investment is reluctant to step in these states due to lack of good infrastructure and positive push by the reluctant central government.
The three states cannot reap the benefits of demographic dividend if positive and corrective steps are not taken to mainstream the young constituency. The youth are to be made politically empowered, ethically sound and culturally confident.
It is in this context that cooperative and collaborative institutional mechanisms must be crafted by the three states to mitigate the sufferings of the people. The benevolence of the union government is very much needed.
Reap the Demographic Benefit
The political/bureaucratic managers of the three states need to understand that unemployment will harm their productivity and seriously dent the reputation of these states if drug menace is not finished. The gainful employment of youth shall enable them to maximize opportunities.
There is an urgency to create jobs for the rapidly growing number of young people set to enter the workforce in next two decades. India will account for 20 percent of the worldwide increase in the working age population over the two decades from 2020.
Projections from world Bank show that between 2020 and 2040 India’s population aged 15 to 59 years is expected to increase by 134.6 million while it could decline in China during the same period by about the same amount. In 2018 the student population in India was 350.4 million, representing a quarter of the country’s population (1,316.3 million) and was more than 75 percent of the size of its existing workforce.
This enormous wave of students will enter the labour market in future years and their job aspirations will be much greater. Investments will be highly desirable in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab which have a growing young population but lag in human development.
We need to tap energies of young men and women and same can be done with strategic investments and interventions by the government alongside well-directed social, employment and industrial policies.
Unemployment is Death of Dreams
The unemployment is not merely a person without work and income but it is equally an issue of denying identity, representation and dignity to the individual as a social entity. Some of the very critical issues in this debate are:
First, the more the educated youth, more the challenges of unemployment they face. During our times university students would romance with hundred dreams and imagine their life and living in thousand ways.
Today in my department, in the university, 177 students awarded with PhD degrees get contractual jobs with meager remuneration after moving from office to office. I wonder if there is no commensurate work why invite everybody for higher education with least quality component in it.
The youth with higher academic qualification face taunts, frustration all around. It is at this stage that drug abuse and violence get into our social structure. My postgraduate students have no idea of why they have come to the university but they know it for sure that they can’t afford to be without work/job after the age of thirty.
After this the family and individual responsibilities multiply. At 29 percent Jammu and Kashmir unfortunately has highest proportion of unmarried youth aged between 15 and 29 in the country and the sole reason for this is lack of jobs in the market.
Second, in our universities/colleges there is no debate and discussion on unemployment and need for setting a youth empowerment agenda. According to NCRB data around 2018, three persons were committing suicide every two hours due to unemployment.
In recent times there were five suicide cases due to Agneepath scheme alone. Further the more things change the more they remain the same. This is uniquely true of our education system. The new is yet to see the light of the day but old has withered away.
Teaching in colleges and universities is in terminal crisis. The teaching unlike an office or a factory job is passion, patience and promise. Its success or failure cannot be measured by Bio-metric attendance. The general standards are poor and getting poorer.
The business, private entities and other institutions complain of poor graduates being produced in our higher education institutions and hence unwelcome to new jobs.
Third, more than 90 percent jobs are in unorganized sector and public sector employs just 4 percent of the work fore. The Covid 19 and some wrong policies of government have damaged the unorginsed sector, and minimum government and maximum governance should not mean reducing the size of the government to the point where the very efficiency of government suffers.
For a more serious intervention in Kashmir we need “Whole of the Government Approach” to resolve the problems of the young. The state, government, market, civil society need to come forward.
The higher education institutions need nothing short of a catharsis to understand speed of the change.
In coming elections Political Parties in Kashmir need to agitate issues of unemployment, drug abuse and quality of education as potentially serious public issues.
Prof Gull Wani is Kashmir based political Scientist
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK