Unemployment Blues

by Zamir Ahmad 

Those who do not remember their mistakes are condemned to repeat them – is a much-quoted adage. The people in power, however, always seem to forget this. Not long ago when the armed insurgency erupted in the state, observers attributed it to the unemployment problem in the state. Even though that was an understatement, the frustrations caused to the youth by unemployment certainly added fuel to the fire!

Those were the times, though, when the private sector was in its infancy even in the mainland. Job opportunities outside the government sector were scarce. The Public-Private Partnership concept, which creates jobs outside the government – but with its active collaboration – was yet to take birth. The forces of growth unleashed by liberalization, privatization and globalization were a distant reality. Things have changed dramatically since then. Sadly but, not for our state! The employment policies followed by our state can best be described as cruel jokes heaped on us on a regular basis. Take for instance the job vacancies in government departments. The State Subordinate Recruitment Board, for that matter, does not have its own office. The officials working in the board are loaned out from various other departments.

The Public Service Commission, the prime body for gazetted cadre recruitments, is always in news for wrong reasons. The allegations of favouritism, inefficiency and corruption in the commission are hard to ignore. Recently the high court has stalled the recruitment process of doctors by the commission as the recruitment rules were being brazenly flouted. Also, the process of recruitment for various government jobs is always guided by political interference. The timing of elections, the passing out of the kin of politicians and bureaucrats from professional colleges etc all plays a role. The results are there for all to see. The most glaring example being the Medical Council of India threat to derecognize the Government Medical College for inadequate faculty. This was a college which was once considered the best in the whole of India.

Creation of jobs in the private sector is another cruel joke. The state is without an industrial policy since long. The tax holidays have only benefited the fly-by-night operators from the mainland who exploited the incentives without giving a damn about long term investments in the state. With the expiry of tax holidays’ period, all of them are seen flying to neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. The BPO centre to be set up by Aegis Essar was a much-touted initiative which even saw the Chief Minister going gaga about. The state government even gave four Kanals (22000 Sft) of prime industrial land to the company to start its Srinagar centre. The company representatives in a recent press conference had the audacity to tell us that the centre would be creating 100 jobs. A 100-seat centre on four kanals of land? Given the way BPO centres operate, infrastructure for at least 5000 seats could have been easily created by the company. And what are the jobs the company is offering? A Rs 10000 per month job? Is the whole bargain and the surrounding buoyancy really worth it? The fact of the matter is that the investments in the state under such initiatives are way below the subsidies and incentives provided by the government for the same. A loss-making proportion in nutshell.

Another job creation opportunity grossly mismanaged by the state is the central sponsored PPP based projects. There are a number of such projects where even the money has been released by the centre to the state and yet the projects are gathering dust in the secretariat files. The point in case is the generously funded National E-governance project which envisages the creation of a state-wide IT infrastructure in the state. Since 2005 nothing has moved on this front and the first instalment of funds released by the centre is lying unutilized.

All this calls for a serious introspection at the government level. Not done, the enlightened youth of today will find innovative methods to express their anger in much bitter ways. That will keep the cauldron boiling for all times to come.

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