The Jammu Municipal Corporation, led by BJP-affiliated councillors, has embarked on a name-changing spree. One resolution after another is being passed to rename the historic landmarks of the old city. In the latest, a proposal has been moved in the general house meeting for renaming the state-run university and Jammu airport after Hindu Dogra monarchs – Maharaja Hari Singh and Maharaja Gulab Singh. It has also been passed with a full majority during the meet.
The Jammu airport will be called Maharaja Hari Singh Jammu Airport and the local university will be Maharaja Gulab Singh Jammu University.
A few days ago, the famous City Chowk, a commercial hub of the city, was renamed to ‘Bharat Mata Chowk’ while another intersection namely Circular road near Panjtirthi in Jammu was renamed to ‘Atal Chowk’. This renaming spree has not gone down well with a large number of locals in Jammu, seen as the vote bank of the Right-wing party, who believe that the BJP has misplaced its priorities.
“My only request to the Modi government is to focus more on the grievances of the people than on changing names,” said a local, on the condition of anonymity, referring to a range of issues plaguing the UT since after the abrogation of Article 370.
Vikas is a labourer with a post-graduate degree from Baba Ghulam Shah University, Rajouri. He helps in packaging the exports – apple carts, dry fruits and others – that are received from Kashmir before they are loaded into the trucks for sale in different states. He feels that it is better to work instead of sitting idle at home. “I am simultaneously looking for jobs, but there are no vacancies. It’s better to earn somethin; else it’s frustrating,” Vikas told NewsClick.
Vikas is not the only one. Revocation of the special status has proved to be a setback for the unemployed youths, as they now have to compete with the candidates from all over India.
Recently, the Centre’s decision to formally abolish the J&K cadre of civil services and scrapping the special age relaxation clause were seen by the students as another nail in the coffin. “The government had ensured that the August 5 decision would lead to development and more jobs. But we don’t see that happening,” said a student pursuing PhD in History from Jammu University.
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Data accessed by NewsClick indicates that unemployment levels in Jammu and Kashmir are all-time burgeoning. Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data reveals that there has been an increase of 4.4% in average unemployment rate from 2018 to 2019. However, the average unemployment graph has jumped meteorically to 21.8% in the first two months of 2020 – clearly depicts rising joblessness after August 5, 2019.
Unregularised jobs is a yet another crucial concern. More than one lakh workers from various engineering departments including Public Health Engineering (PHE), Power Development Department (PDD), and Roads and Building Department (R&B) are still not regularised. Recently, in February, workers had taken to the streets demanding job regularisation and regular minimum wages.
In a recent report by NewsClick, a representative of J&K PDD Employees’ Union in Jammu, Tarun Gupta, had said, “Our demands are very genuine. Those who have completed 10 years of service should be regularised and other need-based employees be brought under Minimum Wages Act. The exploitation of workers must stop and all the longstanding issues including the release of pending salaries and implementation of 7th Pay Commission should be addressed without any further delay.”
It is pertinent to note that it has been seven months since the administrative structure of the erstwhile state has been altered and yet the central government’s Wages Act, that promises Rs 520 on daily basis, stands unimplemented.
In an earlier report by NewsClick, it was also mentioned how the salaries of the contractual lecturers have been slashed by 45%. “The monthly remuneration of NET qualified college contractual lecturers was reduced from Rs 28,000 to Rs 15,000; whereas, the salary of non-NET qualified lecturers was reduced to Rs 12,000 from Rs 22,000,” the report mentioned.
Partly restored but low-speed Internet
Jammu and Kashmir has been under virtual information siege with complete internet blockade. Even though 2G has been restored in Jammu, the services were limited to whitelisted websites until March 5 when the ban on social media was removed. But locals revealed to NewsClick that the internet connectivity is very poor and even the whitelisted websites don’t function properly.
Internet connectivity stands as a pre-requisite for the normal functioning of start-ups and tech organisations. With low-speed internet and no internet, the start-ups have suffered massive losses.
“We suffered a lot as we were not able to send mails to the students. We had to stall the admission process. We were not able to send proposals. Students were not able to fill the forms and submit applications on time,” said Kuldeep, assistant marketing manager for Rayat Bahra University in Jammu.
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