Growing up in a war zone has its own curbs; besides these confines, young people in Kashmir, particularly job-seeking graduates, are struggling to overcome psychosomatic pressures. Growing unemployment and the abuse of reservation policies in our state have sunk the present of so many youngsters into deep darkness, from where they see no glimmer of hope. Even the excitement of the first snow could not heal the uneasiness that lies beneath their gloomy appearances.
A survey conducted by the Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, in 2015-16, puts the number of unemployed in Jammu Kashmir at 72 per thousand. Based on the 2011 census (total population: 1.25 Crores) the number of unemployed youth in J&K is over 900,000. Students completing their studies add to the unemployment number every year. The gravity of this can be measured by the pressure of applications: for a few thousand jobs there are applicants in lakhs. Despite high qualifications government jobs have become the fortune of only a few. During election campaigning every political party promises to create new avenues to address the problem of unemployment, but every new Government has failed to suffice the aspirations of job seekers.
Such growing unemployment among educated youth is preventing many from studying for academic qualifications; with the majority opting for professional degrees, and vocational courses. But after they complete their degrees, even for them, there is little chance to secure a job here in Kashmir; many move out from Kashmir, and some migrate to other parts of the world, particularly to the Gulf. But, living away from home just to earn money leaves them feeling empty. Some settle abroad with their families. A few collect a good sum of money to start a business on their return or pay some influential go-between to secure a government job. When they do so, they feel angry at their judgements: because of constant protests and frequent shutdowns here it is hard for any business to flourish, with rare exceptions. Many have chosen the path of private tuition, and huge numbers are working in private schools on a meagre pay – just not to live a parasitic life, dependent on their families. This unemployment causes financial hardship that in turn breeds mental agony not only in them but also in their families. Many parents feel that education has lost its value when they see their children with high qualifications devoid of hope.
There are some struggles to deviate the minds of unemployed people from seeking a government job to starting their own businesses, with support from bank loans. Though that wave has interested many: there are some who have started their own businesses and became entrepreneurs, but there isn’t much progress among the majority. Everyone wishes for a government job, even if that isn’t a post he/she deserves. Perhaps because in our society only the people who are government servants, are provided respect and regard and maybe only they get good offers for marriage. This rising rate of unemployment is a major cause of late marriage.
And then there is the inequity of the reservation system. Any application form, whether for a job or for admission in a university, asks which category you belong to – whether General, SC (Scheduled Cast), ST (Scheduled Tribe), OBC (Other Backward Class) etc. Of course there is a need to uplift the people belonging to economically deprived groups, but the implementation of this policy does nothing to address structural inequalities in society. A token effort, it only nominally takes into account caste discrimination and does not consider other under-represented groups or the economic background of candidates. This system needs to be drastically revised if it is to make any impact on the injustices plaguing the region’s job market.
Muddasir Ramzan studied English Literature. He was born in 1990 in Kashmir, India, where he resides. He can be reached at muddasirramzan[at]gmail[dot]com.