MANAGING ECONOMY

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“There are 375 thousand small enterprises in the state employing around seven lakh people, almost two persons each,” Drabu said. “Any technological intervention and marketing facilities will scale them up from two members to four members and you get 14 lakh jobs. Do this with 3, and you get two million jobs the very next day.”

Opportunities are there but there is some crippling crisis at the communication front that fails the initiatives in place. American charity Mercy Corps is working in Kashmir on various fronts of social entrepreneurship. In August it made public its survey based on interviews of one thousand youth. The results were stunning. Twenty-two per cent had tried to become entrepreneurs but failed.

Around 82% had not heard about entrepreneurship development institutes or programmes and 96% had never participated in any entrepreneurship development programme. 72% lack knowledge about existing entrepreneurs and enterprises in Kashmir and 79% said they have no access to entrepreneurship knowledge and resources. 80% felt the existing entrepreneurship institutes are unable to adequately support potential enterprises and over 59% of the youth surveyed lacked knowledge about the core processes, services and the service providers that they might need if they choose to become entrepreneurs.

There was complete ignorance about the special self employment schemes that are in vogue. In fact 93% lack knowledge about the basic requirements for starting a business in Kashmir. 81% knew nothing about Omar Abdullah government’s Sher-e-Kashmir Employment and Welfare Policy for Youth (SKEWPY), 64% lacked knowledge about Prime Minister’s Employment Guarantee Programmes (PMEGP), 88% were ignorant about Cluster Development Programme (CDP).

Despite visible shortage of policy makers who could help bridge the supply and market side of the abundant human resource in state, Omar Abdullah did script its flagship SKEWPY. One part of it envisaged offering Voluntary Service Allowance (VSA) to unemployed. The ‘pocket money’ was availed by 24724 youth in 2010-11 and by the end of August 2011, there were 28981 beneficiaries.

The second part was more serious – the Seed Fund Scheme is a rehash of venture capital fund. Under this scheme, educated youth sign declarations that they will never seek a government job. Then they would choose a line of entrepreneurial activity, get trained and finally get a DPR. The government would give the candidate an amount – between one lakh to one million rupees – to manage the equity part of the project as the rest comes from bank debt. By December last year Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) has trained 2766 candidates, and drafted DPRs in 1392 enterprises for 1470 entrepreneurs that have gone to the bank. So far, 902 cases have been cleared by the all powerful steering committee. The EDI has released seed capital to the tune of Rs 23.29 crore in case of 691 enterprises. There were only 615 enterprises involving 646 individuals in whose case the banks have released the funds and the EDI has released the seed money.

The free money of the scheme, however, made the banks suspicious of the project but later they were persuaded and things started moving.

Now the policy makers within the government are working to convert the free money into soft loan on the pattern of various products that National Minority Development Corporation is selling across India.

J&K’s economy is growing at its own pace and part of this velocity rests with the state owned J&K Bank. For the last few years now, its non-local market plays second fiddle to the home turf and the strategy is working well for the bank and the state.

But the overall banking sector does not offer a rosy picture. By the end of September 2011, their deposits were at Rs 48394.49 crore and their cumulative advances at Rs 17280.51 crore and most of it – 10825.35 crore (more than 62%) – falls under mandatory priority sector. But the overall exposure in the state as a percentage to the deposits they are holding is gradually slipping.

It nosedived from 45.74 percent in March 2010 to 40.68 percent in September 2010 and ended up at phenomenally low CDR of 35.57 percent in March 2011. Six months later, it is 35.71 percent. If the state owned J&K Bank is counted separately, then the banks are doing nothing impressive. Their growth story especially on advances front is because of the J&K Bank only. Unlike this state owned bank, all other commercial banks skip targets even in priority sector and lend in safe sectors limited to the urban and semi-urban belts, mostly in retail, cars and in certain-

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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