Srinagar : “Nearly 60 years ago when my uncle was leaving Delhi to do an engineering course, he wrote his first letter complaining of homesickness by the time he reached Banihal. That mental block still persists amongst many of our youth who feel out of place when they leave home,” a senior Jammu and Kashmir official said.
A stable and well-paying job seems to be the top priority for young people in Jammu and Kashmir, who complain of lack of opportunities due to the years of militancy that affected industrial development in the State.
While over one lakh unemployed youth have registered themselves with the State’s Employment Department, officials said the figures are much higher — 6-10 lakh.
But the paradox is that numerous efforts by the Centre, as well as the State government, to create employment options and skill youth from the region have seen mixed results.
At present, there are 27 employment schemes being implemented in State of which 12 are fully funded by the Centre and six have 90 per cent financing. The State itself has nine self-employment schemes.
Take, for instance, the flagship Udaan Scheme, which was pioneered by the Ministry of Home Affairs and implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC).
Launched in 2011, it encourages companies to travel to J&K and identify youth for skilling. Thus, helping students of the region become a part of the mainstream corporate sector after undergoing skilling and training for 3-6 months. But it has failed to give the desired results due to factors ranging from cultural and weather differences, low salaries, and high aspirations of the candidates.
Udaan: not a flying start?
Of the 22,000 people, who were trained under Udaan in the last five years, 14,694 have been offered jobs. Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (Independent charge) Rajiv Pratap Rudy admitted that the scheme faces its “own issues”.
“Bringing them out and allowing them to adapt and then get absorbed was slightly difficult. But, I believe, the scheme has done well,” he told.
“It is not that all students face problems. Many have been successfully placed. Problems of regional variations are always there for students when they go to any other region. But, under Udaan, most companies also try and accommodate candidates as far as possible,” an NSDC official said, adding that they also try and place candidates after the course and ensure that they are offered a minimum salary of ₹15,000/month.
The placed candidates are monitored for at least three months to help them with any teething troubles. Payments to the training partner are made after this period, he said.
“The number of candidates who sign up for the course is good. The bigger paradox is that many candidates are not interested in getting a job and want to go back home. We do not understand this,” noted one training partner for Udaan.
Even in the State government, officials involved with the scheme said nearly 95 per cent of the candidates return either immediately or a few months after completing the course. However, those who choose to stay back say the scheme has helped them immensely.
“I was placed immediately after training and have been working for nearly 18 months. Many of my friends chose to go back home, but for me it has been great.
“I have got a job with a good company that I wouldn’t have managed if I had returned,” said Mohammad Shamil, a 25-year old from Srinagar who is now working in Delhi. But, given a choice, he would definitely return to the State.
State government officials say the scheme needs better salary structures and more counselling and handholding.
“Living away from home on salaries of ₹15,000-20,000 is difficult,” said an official adding “The mindset of staying at home has to be broken. Our youngsters must realise there is a whole world beyond Banihal.”
In fact, the Centre is now working on fresh provisions in Udaan that will focus more on counselling. “The proposal is with the Union Cabinet. It should be approved by the month end,” said an official, adding that the scheme will also be extended for another three years.
In hopes to encourage more youth to participate, the Ministry of Home Affairs has also begun running a daily programme on a regional channel on the scheme.
The Centre is running Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana centres in the State that have had some impact. “PMKVY centres are up and running in Srinagar also. They are doing well,” Rudy said.
“The State government is also participating and we are taking it to all districts,” said another official, while underlining that a key concern is that the funds should not be diverted for other uses such as militancy.
Meanwhile, the State government is working on a new employment scheme that will provide access to institutional finance for start-ups.
“All State-sponsored credit-linked self-employment schemes shall be subsumed into a single, sector-agnostic credit-linked scheme, which shall be implemented by the Employment Department,” Haseeb Drabu, J&K, Minister of Finance, Labour and Employment, had announced in the State Budget earlier this year.
Officials said it is likely to be finalized soon. At present, it is only trade, tourism and horticulture that is creating jobs. Give us electricity and there will be industrial development,” said another official.
Note: News shared for public awareness with reference from the information provided at online news portals.