The problem of unemployment in J&K can be effectively tackled by supporting entrepreneurs to set up small and medium enterprises for self-employment, a process in which the JKEDI can act as a game-changer.
By BILAL HUSSAIN
Limited work opportunities for youth in general and the educated in particular are increasing the number of unemployed and underemployed youth in Jammu and Kashmir. The number of unemployed youth registered in various District Employment and Counseling Centres of the state was 2.32 lakhs by the end of September 2014. In official publications, the state government discounts that the figures quoted may be higher as the registration with the Employment Department is a voluntary process, not mandatory.
At the state level, the number of registered job seekers decreased from 447562 in 2009 to 307827 in 2013, registering a decline of 31.22 percent which can be indication that the youth are no more are interested in government jobs. Again, the statistics of employment exchanges do not provide accurate picture of unemployment in the state. The data suffers mainly from two shortcomings. On one hand, all the unemployed persons do not register themselves with these employment exchanges and on the other hand, some of the registered persons may not be actually unemployed but only in search of better jobs.
Similarly, as per the 68th Round of NSS July 2011 to June 2012, based on Usual Principal Status (UPS), J&K has the highest unemployment rate of 4.9% percent in comparison to its neighbouring states like Punjab (2.8%), Himachal (2%), Delhi (4.7%), Haryana (3.2%). All India figures for unemployment rate stand at 2.7%.
During the last ten years of 9th and 10th plan periods, 11000 jobs were created annually within the plan investment under regular salaried employment category in the entire state. Based on this average and taking into account the average retirement of about 4500 employees annually, around 77500 job opportunities under the category would be provided during the 11th plan period in the government sector. The remaining nearly 7500 jobs shall have to be created in the private sector out of the total number of 85,000. The leftover employment opportunities of around 4.15 lakhs shall have to be created under self employment and wage employment categories to the extent of 1.90 lakhs and 2.25 lakhs respectively, based on the calculations worked out by the Central Task Force constituted for J&K state.
The figures stated above present a dismal situation not too bad to be unfixable. There have been initiatives that could have worked towards reducing the number of unemployed youth in the state; however, due to the lack of willingness and competence among the heads of these institutions, the desired results have never been achieved.
The successive governments took steps and made efforts by providing some employment to the unemployed youth of the state. However, it is not be possible to provide government jobs to all the educated unemployed youth in J&K. In these circumstances, new possibilities have to be explored for absorbing the youth by way of creating work opportunities in private sector and creating enabling environment for entrepreneurs as well.
Extending support to entrepreneurs to set up small and medium enterprises for self-employment would appear to be the most effective and durable way of doing this. A large number of workers in J&K have traditionally been self-employed in activities like Handicrafts, Tourism, Horticulture, Food Processing and much more. The disturbances prevailing in the state have affected them adversely. While some of the workers have suffered loss of employment, the majority are working at very low levels of income and productivity. Also, in many of the identical areas, especially horticulture and food processing, a large potential for growth lies untapped, waiting to be exploited.
One such initiative by the government was setting of the J&K Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) with the main objective of creating awareness and facilitate entrepreneurship in Jammu and Kashmir by imparting entrepreneurship education, skill up-gradation trainings, disseminating knowledge and bringing about behavioural changes towards the concept of entrepreneurship at the social level and also to develop linkages with national and international organisations working in similar fields.
The entrepreneurship training activities taken up by the institute are mentioned in the table.
Though established in 1997, the JKEDI started its regular activities in February 2004 and has set up three regional centres – one each in Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh divisions of the state. Is it sufficient for an institution like JKEDI to be complacent and boast about? It is high time for the top management of JKEDI to be innovative enough to reach to masses and fully utilise the resources available with them so that the purpose of the establishment is served and the youth of the state gets benefited by the institute.