What concerns young Kashmir?

11 Jun, 2014    ·   4505

Shujaat Bukhari analyses the priorities and concerns of the Kashmiri youth

Shujaat Bukhari
Shujaat Bukhari
Editor in Chief, Rising Kashmir
I never had any doubt about the ability of Kashmiri youth to think and look positively towards making this place better. But it is also a fact that they need to be pushed to do something on their own. Dependence on government jobs has always held them back from doing something different. However, those who took a leaf out in the non-governmental sector have proven that they have the capacity to lead and be a source of livelihood for many more.

It is not only the sense of job security when you join the government, but also the inherent rot in the system that discourages youth from taking entrepreneurship as their career.

When Chief Minister Omar Abdullah recently revoked the Recruitment Policy he had himself implemented in 2010, a senior government officer told me: “He has done the greatest disservice to youth who had moved towards self employment with dwindling benefits in a government job”. But Omar had to do it in a bid to resurrect his party after the recent poll debacle.

What ails the system is something that concerns even a youngster in a school. Last Sunday I had a chance to sit in the interview panel for General Ability Test (GAT) conducted by Aloha Learning Center for 9th class. While I was impressed with the budding talent and understanding of the issues the young students have been developing, it was also painful to see how depressed they were with the corruption, nepotism and favouritism in the system. That is why many of them had set their goal to become an IAS officer. Whether they will succeed in first realizing their goal and later curbing the corruption is a different issue but the way this threat is weighing heavily on their minds speaks volumes about how the society is reacting to it. “Either you have to be from an elite family or you have to have money, then only you can succeed,” a young student told the panel, adding: “I want to become an IAS officer and curb the corruption”.

There were a few voices about the human rights violations, repression and denial of political rights. A few of them wanted to be doctors despite the fact that the profession is losing the sheen for want of jobs in the government sector. “They (doctors) have made it a business and I want to become a doctor who can help the poor,” was the response of a girl student who narrated how her grandfather was “mistreated” and was taken to Amritsar for eye surgery.

Refrain, however, was that corruption has eaten into the vitals of the society and politicians and bureaucrats have set up a system of favouritism and nepotism in which merit is marred and the poor are deprived. The youngsters seemed determined in fighting this menace but the question is that can one or two or ten such people overcome this challenge. The sense of hopelessness in the existing system has dangerous dimension of drifting these youngsters away to something else. To me it looked that corruption should be a separate subject in the school curriculum to sensitize them at the young age.

Earlier in the last week of May similar concerns came up during an interaction with the higher level of youth. The occasion was “Rabita—Business Leadership Summit”, organized by Center for Business Leadership led by young lawyer Nadeem Qadri.  The summit had young graduates mostly from business management background as the participants. Their articulation of ideas was simply brilliant and above all their penchant to make Kashmir better was visible on their faces. We cut a beautiful and tasty cake made at home by a young girl Farah Tanki. Armed with a degree in Food Technology she has set on the path of taking up the cake making as a full time business. There were many such young boys and girls who came up with pragmatic proposals.

They listened to successful entrepreneurs and business leaders and were ready to draw inspiration from them. But again what was flagged off as a major concern that had potential to halt their dreams was corruption. “Entrepreneurship is the only solution to a depressed Kashmir but does the system allow us to move forward,” questioned a young graduate. Age old mechanisms based on stale rules and regulations have dampened the spirits of young people as they are forced to run from the pillar to post to even get themselves registered. They did acknowledge that Entrepreneur Development Institute at Pampore had come up with a changed insight and outlook to help youth and many had succeeded in moving forward from that platform. But the overall policy set up fails to change the mind. They urged for having a single window system for clearance of cases as they had to pay for getting their papers cleared from various agencies such as Industries Department, Pollution Control Board and SIDCO. The individual authorities need to be abolished.

In case the government wakes up to the concerns of these youth, entrepreneurship can become a reality and help the government also to overcome the challenge of unemployment.  According to a survey conducted by International NGO Oxfam, ‘Kashmir today is a sea of unemployed youth, a place where infrastructure is crippled and there is almost no effort to encourage private enterprises and self-employment.’ The study reveals that opportunities for professional education remain very limited. Out of roughly 700,000 youth in the age group of 18-30 years, close to 50 percent remain unemployed despite higher education. In addition to the fact that employment is a major issue confronting youth, addressing the political conflict also occupies a special place in the entire discourse revolving around them”.

Glorifying the government job, notwithstanding the fact that we need people in administrative services, is not the solution. Government must instil confidence among the educated youth that the system that has worked against the people for many decades now will follow the road of changed world. Corruption is a menace that is now a concern for even a class 9 student, this can be seen as hope for its end but it has other effects as well.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir