Kashmir is facing a typical dichotomy in relation to employment of the local youth. According to reports almost a million youth are without any employment. A large number of these are highly “educated” or in other words possess umpteen degrees but no skills! In fact, acquiring degrees has become an obsession in Kashmir these days! On the other hand almost an equal number of outsiders both skilled and non-skilled from different parts of India are working all over the valley. Unfortunately, the local youth have been deliberately attuned to aim only for government jobs at any level. There is a virtual epidemic among the youth for seeking white collar jobs even at the lowest level regardless of the degrees possessed! The fault lies with the governments we have had right from 1947. Till the first tenure of Sheikh Abdullah there was strict enforcement by government for creating self-sufficiency in all respects. However, after his toppling in 1953 and the installation of Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, the self-sufficiency went for a six. He introduced the culture of subsidy and a Kashmiri became totally dependent on outside dole.
Traditionally, Kashmiris have been very skilled craftsmen not only in regard to the world famous handicrafts but in regard to all other skills like carpentry, masonry and so on. The heritage buildings and historical monuments are a proof of the skills Kashmiris have possessed from the earliest times. In fact, some of the shrines have intricate wood-work with beautiful papier-mache designs on ceilings and walls. Right now most of these arts are dying because of the trend to get easy government jobs. In fact, the entire young generation is being converted into government slaves! The main cause for this destructive wave is the loss of the dignity of manual labour. Instead of dozens of paper degrees, the present youth need vocational training. We have to first restore dignity of manual labour right from the top. People should feel proud to work with their own hands rather than be babus pushing their pens around. This requires not only a revolutionary change in education system but a total overhaul in the mind-set of the planners as well as the leaders of all hues and shades!
Every government has been trying to engage as many youth as they can in unskilled government jobs at the lowest levels. They are creating virtually armies of slaves with zombie like existence. This government job mania is a gift from the British colonials who in their two century rule set up a totally colonial administration in every sphere of life. The freedom given by them was only physical and they continued the slavery of our minds through the systems they had introduced to keep the colony under control. They had kept India united and controlled through various central services which have continued even after their departure with a slight change in nomenclature. The Central Government has replicated the same system in Kashmir. Instead of trying to make the State self-sufficient in different spheres, it has been made totally dependent on dole in every sphere. Unfortunately, the worst misfortune of Kashmir in recent times has been its confused leaders! They have been presenting an abstract goal without bothering about the road map to that goal and the carrying on of proper and neat day to day living till one reaches the ultimate goal. The first requirement is to achieve self-sufficiency and independence in every sphere of living. The worst thing is that people are being made to believe that the government which they claim to be an “installed” one is expected to do everything. No one has been advising people that they too have certain duties towards the society! There cannot be worst hypocrisy than that!
Take for instance the flood protection measures which the government has totally failed to implement. No one bars a local initiative to undertake these leaving the government getting cooked in its own soup! How one wishes we had someone like Hakim Suyya who would make people take the initiative to clean up Jhelum and all other water bodies on their own! There are hundreds of thousands of youth sitting idle. Even one could engage these to manually clean all the water bodies thereby providing them some work! Dal Lake is virtually dead! It may soon turn into a stinking marsh. If local people take initiative on their own, it is not difficult to clean up Dal and all other water bodies. For umpteen years the weeds used to be extracted manually. Why can’t this be done now on a massive scale by the local youth led by a dynamic and a fiery leader? In fact, all environmental measures can be taken on voluntary basis if there are sincere and dynamic youth leaders.
Coming back to the job market, there is an urgent need for the civil society to take the initiative to instil respect for vocational jobs as also to restore the dignity of the manual labour. The whole mind-set of clamouring for government jobs has to be changed. Unless all our leaders take a sincere initiative in regard to this mad rush for government jobs and motivate all locals to take up the jobs presently virtually usurped by outsiders, we are surely doomed! Will someone take the initiative please!