Hon’ble Members of this august House may appreciate that the problem of unemployment in the State has reached alarming proportions and, as such, deserves immediate attention with policy initiatives, institutional arrangements and operational strategies. The Hon’ble Members may also recall that the pronouncements made on the subject in the earlier budget proposals especially in 2007-08 have had a little or no impact at the ground level. Now the time has come for a collective endeavour to address this gigantic problem in a principled manner.
In order to adopt a well conceived strategy for alleviating the problem of unemployment in the State, there is a fervent requirement of a sound statistical base. This is more so for the reason that there is a lot of equivocation about the very extent and nature of unemployment in the State. For this purpose, it has become imperative to build a sound and dependable data base so that plausible remedial measures are adopted. For operationalizing this arrangement at the ground level, the Government intends to revamp the Employment Exchanges and enhance their role, both quantitatively and qualitatively. They will be renamed as District Employment and Counselling Centres. The District Centres shall develop a reliable statistical base including skill inventory and skill deficiency mapping.
The number of such District Employment & Counselling Centres shall be increased from 14 to 22 so that all the districts have a well placed institutional arrangement for information generation on the subject. It shall be made mandatory for all the unemployed youth to get themselves registered with the Distri
ct Employment and Counselling Centre for which the necessary formats shall be prepared by the Department of Economics and Statistics in a digital mode. A notification to this effect with all the relevant details shall be issued by 30th of September, 2009 and the new Centres shall be launched simultaneously in all districts of the State from the 2nd of October, 2009 to coincide with the 140th birth day of Mahatma Gandhi, the Apostle of Peace.
Buildings and other infrastructure for the District Employment & Counselling Centres shall have to be provided for all the districts. I propose to make a beginning with two districts in the current year- one in Kashmir and one in Jammu division.
Concurrently, the Government intends to put in place a well conceived ‘State Policy on Employment’ to address all issues relating to the problem of unemployment in the State. The Planning and Development Department has been directed to initiate the process and the policy document, I am confident, shall be ready to be launched on the 5th December, 2009, the 105th birthday of the great visionary of our State, the Sher-e-Kashmir, Janab Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Sahib. The document shall serve as a road map ahead and I solicit valuable suggestions from the Hon’ble members of this august House in arriving at a well considered policy initiative. I propose to name this initiative as “The Sher-e-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Programme for the Youth” (SKEWPY).
In the recent past (February, 2009) a number of initiatives have been undertaken at the national level to enhance the skill endowment base in the country. Jammu and Kashmir State while taking its share has to create about 50 lakh skilled persons by 2022 with emphasis on exclusivity. The average annual target works out to be 3.85 lakhs which indeed is a huge task. In order to address ourselves to this challenge, the Government intends to formulate ‘State Policy on Skill Development’ with an objective to create ‘workforce empowered with improved skills, knowledge and internationally recognized qualifications to gain access to decent employment’. At the operational level the Government commits itself to initiate and expedite the process of establishing 22 district level ‘Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs)’ in cooperation with the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India and Public/Private Sector Banks. This institutional arrangement, I am hopeful, shall be in place by the end of the current financial year.
The geo-climatic extremities in the State cause a high incidence of seasonal unemployment particularly in the countryside snowballing into out-migration of labour force. In order to address this phenomenon and ensure livelihood security to the rural people, Government intends to strengthen the premier Wage Employment Scheme under ‘National Rural Employment Guarantee Act’ by extending its scope and enhancing wages. For this purpose ‘State Employment Guarantee Council’ has been advised to take up the matter with the Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India for extending the scope of the scheme by incorporating relevant activities in the list of already available ‘Permissible Works’.
Conventionally, government has been perceived as the sole employer and remedy has unfortunately been invented in over-sizing the administrative machinery. Even when this convenient option has been over exhausted, the problem of unemployment has actually proliferated. This conventional approach has, in fact, proved counter productive. This mindset needs to be changed and new entrants to the labour market motivated to adopt self employment ventures. A host of Central Schemes presently in place for the promotion of self employment ought to be amplified with innovative self employment projects under various sectors. The Government proposes to emphasize on mass awareness programmes to apprise youth of the State about the bright prospects in self employment privileges through J&K Entrepreneurship Development Institute.
It should be borne in mind that all the centrally sponsored self employment schemes are credit linked and the financial institutions generally seem reluctant to extend credit facility to the first generation entrepreneurs in view of their risk perception. This has negative implications on the development of entrepreneurship. Such an equivocation warrants an immediate State intervention to ensure that the motivated and trained prospective entrants to the field of entrepreneurship/self employment are nurtured and insulated from frustration and mental agony.
To address this problem, the State Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) is being asked to offer ‘Entrepreneurship Development Programme/s (EDPs)’ as a package which apart from sensitization, training and consultancy inputs shall include an incentive in the form of non-refundable Seed Money to enable prospective entrepreneurs to kick start their ventures and make their projects bankable. For this purpose, government intends to create an ‘Entrepreneurship Development Fund’ with an initial corpus of Rs.25 crore. The corpus shall be utilized under a well conceived State Scheme for the prospective motivated, trained and provisionally registered first generation entrepreneurs to start their ventures relating to the core areas which inter-alia include agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, medicinal and aromatic plant cultivation and food processing. This scheme too shall be launched on 5th December,2009.
The Government intends to build complete synergy in different Self Employment Schemes presently in vogue and ensure that the first generation entrepreneurs are actually benefited by these Schemes. Reference, in this regard may be made to the initiatives already taken by the national Minorities Development & Finance Corporation (NMDFC), a Government of India undertaking under the Ministry of Minority affairs which provides loan/credit facilities to the first generation entrepreneurs belonging to the minorities on very low (3-6 per cent ) interest rates. The said Corporation has, for the purpose, nominated Jammu and Kashmir Women Development Corporation (JKWDC) and Jammu and Kashmir Scheduled castes/Scheduled Tribes (J&K SC/ST) Corporation as the Channelizing Agencies in the State. However, the latter has not been able to lift any money from NMDFC for the last five years limiting the opportunities available for the prospective entrepreneurs. In order therefore to ensure that the benefits actually reach the identified clientele group, the Government proposes to nominate JK EDI an additional State Channelizing Agency of NMDFC for providing loans/credit facility to the entrepreneurs motivated, trained and promoted by the Institute.
The Government proposes to revamp the Employment Department and place it under an Employment Facilitating Agency which shall be created and placed under the charge of a very senior officer. The officers shall be hand-picked to take-up the challenge at the district, divisional and state level and deliver with a missionary zeal. There will be a system of award and punishment for good and bad performance of officers.
An Overseas Employment Corporation shall be created to liaise with the placement agencies, foreign embassies, Ministry of Labour and Department of Overseas Employment etc. The proposed Corporation shall create a knowledge bank for aspirers of overseas employment, particularly on matters of legal requirements for migration, work environment in various foreign lands, mandatory formalities and formats etc. The proposed Corporation shall also handle matters of employment opportunities within the Country. We hope that its role shall grow further after global recession starts receding.
The proposed Employment Facilitating Agency shall have a Governing Body headed by the Chief Secretary to deal with all matters connected with employment of youth. It will also oversee the functioning of all Employment related organizations and monitor progress of implementation of all employment schemes and programmes. The Agency shall also identify and create opportunities of employment in sectors like Tourism, Horticulture, Floriculture, Fisheries, Health and Sericulture etc where skills rather than education are in greater demand.
Training of youth who may not be highly qualified but would be suitable for jobs in these sectors, shall be organized by the proposed Agency. All the trainees shall be provided suitable stipend during the period of training.
The Agency shall facilitate setting up of Polyclinics and Consultancies by un-employed and retired doctors and engineers. The government and the financing institutions shall provide package of assistance and loans in a manner similar to that available for industrial units, suitably modified to meet specific requirements of such polyclinics and consultancies.
Lot of potential exist for meaningful utilization of knowledge, skill and talent of our educated unemployed youth under NREGS. Last year 350 persons were engaged as supporting staff to work as Computer Operators, Accounts Assistants, Technical Assistants, Rozgar Sevikas as well as Block level Programme Officers. With the targeted increase in person-days of employment taking it to 5 crore, we shall be generating potential for absorption of nearly 3000 persons in such jobs.
The government also proposes to simultaneously adopt a pro active approach for creating service related self employment units which may be utilized to meet the requirements of government departments to start with. Some of the areas coming to mind immediately are plumbing, electricals, repairing of motors, gadgets, electronic items etc which are in demand in most of government offices. The service units promoted by technically trained and qualified youth can be recognized to provide such services to government departments on charges per visit basis, actual cost of replaced parts plus wages at notified rates. It is hoped that in due course of time, private sector and the general population shall come forward to utilize their services. The requisite support for setting up of such service units as also a transitional support mechanism for sustaining them during the initial years shall be worked out by the government very soon.
A large number of contractual, adhoc and consolidated-salary appointments have been made in various government departments against clear vacancies. Their present number is reported as 5,656. These appointees have been continuing in service for considerably long time. As per the latest Apex Court rulings available on this subject, a one time regularization of service can be resorted to by the government to deal with such situations. The government has accordingly decided to regularize all such persons who have already completed 7 years of service and who are academically qualified to hold their respective jobs as prescribed under rules.
The society which does not take care of its women folk starts degrading. Amongst various welfare measures which the government intends to initiate for socio economic upliftment of women, a special scheme has been devised for their economic empowerment. Under this scheme, 100 women entrepreneurs shall be selected from each district taking the total to 2,200 in the first phase. They will be granted direct loans upto Rs.3 lakh at a very low rate of 6% interest through the State Women Development Corporation.
The scope of the scheme shall be later extended to tehsil level. For this purpose, the government shall provide a revolving fund of Rs.10 crore to the State Women Development Corporation, in suitable installments depending upon the progress of the proposed scheme. The State Women Development Corporation shall be advised to ensure the techno economic viability and profitability of the enterprises and develop a scientific monitoring mechanism for timely interventions to ensure success of the assisted units. The fields identified for this purpose include health care and pharmacenticals; restaurants, computers and information technology, agro based industries, floriculture, cosmetics, perfumery and parlors; hosiery, ceramics, tailoring, leather and food products etc.
Nearly 3300 agricultural graduates have been engaged as Rehbar-e-Zirat. However, it is learnt that the services of this technical human resource have not been properly utilized. One of the factors responsible for this is the reluctance of the appointees to move to the field on one pretext or the other. In order to meaningfully utilize the services of the Rehbar-e-Zirats, I offer an additional incentive of Rs.1500 per month payable through the DRDA or Panchayat, to such of the Rehbar-e-Zirats who would move down to the panchayat level and work in the field alongside the farmers, to serve as a meaningful link between them and the concerned departments for popularizing, implementing and monitoring the progress of various agriculturel related schemes.
It is known world over that the human civilization has progressed on the foundation of human creativity and innovations. While some of the innovations get recognized, many go un-noticed. In a knowledge society, it is important for us to scout ‘innovations’ and ‘traditional knowledge practices’ and popularize them for the advantage of the whole society. Jammu and Kashmir too has wealth of creative minds and talent. It is time for the state and its people to celebrate creativity and channelize benefits emanating from it for the advantage of the whole society.
Under the guidance of Janab Omar Abdullah Sahib, our young and dynamic Chief Minister, the government is extremely keen that the state as well as private sector join hands in discovering hidden talent of our society engaged in solving local problems without any outside help. It will not only encourage creativity and innovations but will also generate tremendous economic activity and increase our productivity. I propose to institute an award to recognize five best innovations every year in identified fields with a prize of Rs. one lakh each. The state will also take every possible step to get these innovations patented and popularized for the common benefit of the Society.
I would like to add here, that the government have been in the meanwhile duly engaged in the process of drawing up the best available talent for public services through the PSC and the Selection Boards. Starting from January 2009, the State Subordinate Selection Board has already made 8,086 selections. Another 438 selections have been finalized by the PSC at gazetted level and 3,835 appointments have been made in the Police Department during this period. Thus the total number of selections made during the last six or seven months comes to well over 12,000. During this period, 11,163 new posts have been created and 5,060 posts have been referred to PSC and State Subordinate Selection Board.
During this very period, 7035 posts have been referred to Police Recruitment Board. Alongwith the previous backlog, the vacancies available with PSC are 4,023. Similarly, the vacancies available with SSSB, alongwith the backlog comes to 10,582. All the recruiting agencies have been advised to expedite the selection process. Therefore, nearly 22,000 more boys & girls can hope to get a government job in the current financial year. Alongwith the appointment or selections already made from January, 2009 onwards, the tally of government jobs in respect of the present government may come to 34,000. I may add here that about 7000 class IV vacancies are also available and we intend to fill them expeditiously thereby further increase in the tally to a likely figure of 41,000.