Harnessing youth power in Jammu & Kashmir
by Jaibans Singh on 21 Jan 2021 1 Comment

Jammu and Kashmir has suffered tremendously in the shadow of the gun for the last almost three decades. The youth of the region were worst affected. Their education and development suffered as families were engrossed in the daily challenge of survival. As a result, they lost out on employment opportunities and entrepreneurship.


It is to the credit of the Indian Army that, in the most testing times, it understood the need to keep the youth, especially of the Kashmir valley, engaged with the aspiration of a better future. Since the last three decades, the army, under its flagship welfare programme, Operation Sadbhavna, has been making efforts to bring the state into the mainstream of the country’s growth trajectory. Army Goodwill Schools were instrumental in meeting educational requirements at a time when government education infrastructure collapsed under the terrorist threat.


In an effort to involve the youth in gainful and constructive activity, the army established a number of Youth Employment Guidance Nodes (YEGN) to provide information regarding employment opportunities. Vocational Training Centres (VTC) were set up to train the local population in a trade of their choice. The ‘Kashmir Super 30’ project launched in 2014 and modelled on Bihar’s well-known ‘Super 30’ programme has elicited excellent results year after year. The Army has been holding regular recruitment rallies to fill vacancies in various segments. These are being attended by thousands of candidates which ensures that no vacancy is left unfilled.


The Army’s efforts are now being replicated by the state and central Government post-bifurcation and new vistas of employment generation and enhanced economic activity have opened up.


The biggest initiative was announced on 07 January, 2020 by Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha, viz., a Rs 28,400 crore Industrial Development Plan that will commence on the day of notification till 2037. It is designed to provide employment to about 4.5 lakh persons and will build on existing industries and new enterprises. Areas like horticulture, fisheries, animal husbandry, dairy farming that form the basic economy of the state will benefit.


The success of the policy depends on skill development and empowerment of the youth. The UT government is taking positive steps in this direction vide a Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP). Observing that the youth are inherently talented, the Lt. Governor said, “The intended programme will prove to be an institutional mechanism for providing the necessary handholding and support to the youth to facilitate and nurture their capabilities, build an atmosphere of trust and positivity, identify gaps and resolve the same through various technological and knowledge-based interventions.”


The UT Government also has in place a “comprehensive” employment plan to fill up 25,000 vacant posts. It will ultimately give employment to 50,000 youth in a time bound manner.


Another interesting central initiative in mid-2020 is Skill, Empowerment and Employment in Jammu & Kashmir (SEE J&K). The programme will cover one lakh youth in the next five years and will be implemented through competent training providers from the private sector and non-profit organisations. The chosen candidates will range from school dropouts to graduates and post graduates, each empowered according to his education and capability. Placements would be across the nation.


The army has, while keeping COVID restrictions in mind and taking all precautions, resumed its traditional responsibility of encouraging, motivating, training and educating youth towards pursuing wholesome careers under the new schemes. In recent days, lectures have been conducted on “Youth Empowerment Schemes in J&K” at various places in Rajouri. In Doda, the Army has conducted coaching classes for students aspiring to take the Sainik School entrance examination. In Poonch, special lectures have been organised for the Gujjar-Bakarwal community to impress upon them the importance of education and caring of their animals and habitat.


In Kashmir, the Chilla-e-Kalan (extreme cold) period starting December 20, was been observed with festivals and band displays. A two-day festival, ‘Jashn-e-Baramulla,’ was held end-December which included performances by participants of Kashmir’s Got Talent and various local artists. Shopian witnessed a grand musical festival at Batpura Sports Stadium that attracted a massive participation by more than 5000 people. A similar musical and cultural festival organised by local army units at Government College Handwara witnessed massive participation by local people.


The central theme of the functions held in Kashmir was Badalta (transforming) Kashmir. The objective was to energise the youth by highlighting the culture and tradition of Kashmir and instil in them confidence to take advantage of the facilities being provided and build their future. The platform was used by senior Army officers to create awareness and motivate youth in this direction.


Jammu and Kashmir has 16.2 per cent unemployment, the second-worst unemployment rate among states/union territories in the country. Hence, besides government, civil society, elders and role models must help motivate youth to move out and take initiative.


The people of Kashmir have shunned the cult of the violence and opted for peace and prosperity. Political leaders should respect their sentiments and drop the politics of agitation and work towards rehabilitating the people whose lives have been disrupted by decades of foreign sponsored militancy.


(Jaibans Singh is an analyst, columnist and author)

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