In the beginning of 2017, Imran lost his job because the work contract was not renewed. Imran had never had an altercation with his colleagues or supervisors and his performance certificate reveals that he was a productive employee. But he is helpless now, because of the contractual nature of his work. So after a year of toiling, he is unemployed.
Losing a job was not easy for the 28-year-old, who went through an emotional upheaval. Even though he was poorly paid, he could at least contribute something to his family. Imran’s father had taken a loan to educate his son, who is an engineer, thinking that his son would be able to take care of the family after his retirement. Now, Imran is financially dependent on his retired father, who runs a small shop at Lal Chowk in Srinagar, but the shop is hardly making profits.
“It has been a year since I am sitting idle at home. There are no jobs. I have applied everywhere, from private companies to government jobs. But there is no vacancy. I am an engineer with a work experience of two years. I am planning to take a loan and leave for Delhi after Eid,” said Imran.
In a recent survey, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) in collaboration with the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) found that Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has the highest unemployment rate of 12.13 per cent.
So it’s not surprising that the story of Sunny, who lives in Jammu, is no different from that of Imran. Sunny completed his BBA from Jammu University. Grappling with unemployment for two years, he thought of pursuing MBA from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), hoping that another degree might increase his chances of getting a job.
“I have sent my resume to private companies, but there is so much of competition and corruption. Only job aspirants having a good economic background are selected,” says Sunny. He believes the job selection is a process that favours the privileged.
To support his family, the 26-year-old works a casual labourer on daily wages.
There are thousands like Imran and Sunny in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, who, despite having a string of degrees, are idling away with no job. The number of the unemployed youth registered with various District Employment and Counselling Centres of the J&K state is 85,944 (around 42,219 youths from Kashmir and 45,821 youths from Jammu) as of March 2018.
“Unemployment in Jammu and Kashmir is a manufactured reality as the sole by-product of an incapacitated policymaking. Authorities made government lucrative and hired more people than it requires. In overall interventions in economic life, it encouraged abuse of local resources and encouraged consumerism to the extent that J&K is a net purchaser of items worth almost Rs 60,000 crore a year —an order half of which can be managed within the state,” said Mohammad Hussain, editor of Kashmir Life.
“Now shrunken landholdings are abetting the crisis with migrations. In a place where corruption is a parallel economy, public spending rarely creates jobs,” he added.
As per the Economic Survey Report of J&K, the unemployment rate in the state is 24.6 per cent. However, in the age-group of 18 to 29 years, the unemployment rate is of 13.2 per cent.
Youth in the Valley maintain that the condition of unresolved conflict is the reason behind the unemployment. However, many of the educated youths are not waiting for the government to come to their rescue but are creating different sources of employment. Many start-ups have emerged in Kashmir, providing some relief amid the ongoing turmoil.
“Unemployment is massive and it plays a role in the frustration and mental stress of the population. But the conflict exists outside this problem, which is one of many. Conflict is often deliberately portrayed as the root of the problem. But it is the result of the conflict and not the cause,” said Qazi Zaid, the 27-year-old editor of Free Press Kashmir.
Job Application Form Fees: A process of minting money?
Although Imran was capable of paying the job application form fees, Sunny is facing a hard time due to recruitment agencies, under which aspirants are asked to pay Rs 300 to Rs 500 per job application.
Recently, the Srinagar district president of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Upper House member, Mohammad Khurshid Alam, had appealed to the state government to waive the form fee taken from job aspirants.
“This is being viewed as an unnatural measure being taken by these agencies as the job seeker is already bearing the brunt of unemployment and uncertainty and then has to pay such huge sums only to appear in an interview. It is high time that such a policy is revoked so that a sigh of relief is provided to the already perturbed unemployed youth of the state,” Alam had said in a press statement.
However, as per the figures revealed in the year 2014, the recruitment board had made a huge earning of Rs 20 crore from job aspirants, revealing the number of unemployed people in the state.