By Sajad Bazaz
In the given economic scenario, it is the power of youth which alone can trigger any country’s economic growth. This statement has a basis in a recent World Bank study which reveals that in the next 15 years, the global economy needs to create 600 million new jobs to keep up with the world’s demanding population growth. Failure to address the youth employment could therefore cripple a country’s economic growth and exacerbate chronic employment and poverty. So, it’s crucial for the governments around the world to provide enabling environment and address youth unemployment. It’s also equally important to address the socio-economic problems like barriers to political participation for their progress and development.
In a state like Jammu and Kashmir, this kind of policy fits into the scheme of things in the given alarmingly rising unemployment rate scenario. We have seen certain youth employment strategies in the shape of schemes aimed to significantly and tangibly trigger youth employment through entrepreneurship. The schemes, run through Jammu Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute, envisage to address youth unemployment by training young people, encourage job creation, support young entrepreneurs with proper skills as well as networks to be employable.
But most of these schemes launched with enthusiasm got punctured midway – some for the lack of hassle free and proper finance, some falling in the basket of politically influential entities and some succumbing to the conflict situation. Precisely, while attempting to enable entrepreneurship development, JKEDI seems missing an organised way of cultivating the culture of entrepreneurship.
Take the case of Himayat scheme aimed at providing entrepreneurial skills for sustainable livelihood to youth of J&K and facilitating access to finance and support services. The scheme has been grossly mishandled on two counts. First, JKEDI should not have handled finance part itself as the institute is inexperienced in technical terms to handle financing of projects. Besides, it lacks proper infrastructure to handle entrepreneurs across the state. In this situation, handholding and monitoring of financed units has got messed up. Gripped in this situation, the institute funded projects recklessly under Himayat scheme, without mapping genuine beneficiaries. Substantial amount has got blocked in these units as the entrepreneurs have defaulted in repayment of loans.
Second, in a state of desperation arising out of blocked amount in bad loans, the institute is now funding only those entrepreneurs who are able to offer collateral security in the form of guarantee of government employee with a written assurance from the drawing and disbursing officer to repay in case of default. This mandatory government employee guarantee has been proving a major impediment in the success of the Himayat scheme. So, by virtue of the existing scenario, Himayat is now discouraging entrepreneurship.
It would have been in the fitness of things to pass on the financing part to the banks which have vast network of branches across the state and at the same time possess financing as one of their core competencies. Or else, the institute should have a well-placed loan appraisal and asset monitoring systems in place to follow the progress of the funded units. Even a well knit recovery mechanism should have been put in place before granting loans to the prospective entrepreneurs.
The previous political dispensation pursued vigorously to cultivate culture of entrepreneurship among the educated unemployed youth through a special welfare and employment program. Even as the program registered a good number of success stories of entrepreneurship for gainful self-employment, there were some unsolicited quarters who choked the genuine beneficiaries and kept them away from the scheme. Resultantly, the scheme didn’t revolutionise the culture of entrepreneurship and failed to deliver up to the expectations of its planners.
Meanwhile, our entrepreneurship mission should not succumb to the given ground situation where conflict holds sway for over two decades now. At our place, any business venture needs to show ‘embrace the conflict’ attitude. General rules apart, entrepreneurship here demands partnering – a way of working between people that makes a difference differently. Since we are operating in a human-consuming conflict situation, it also makes a sense for our entrepreneurs to nurture social entrepreneurship. The aim should be to pursue solutions to our plenty of social problems. So, as social entrepreneurs, they should act as change agents to create social value.
Lastly, for promoting entrepreneurship in an organised manner to address the problem of unemployment in the state, substantial resources and an appropriate environment is inevitable.
(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)