Guarding the Valley from within
Creating sustainable livelihoods through concerted efforts by stakeholders will turn Kashmir’s narrative and improve its socio-economic status
Idle minds, as they say, are "Devil's workshops"! The size of Jammu & Kashmir's unemployed youth is almost the size of the population of Austria, Bulgaria, or a small-sized European Nation. Unfortunately, due to lack of proper guidance and avenues clubbed with administrative ennui of successive unstable governments over the years – the majority of youth are misguided, directionless, frustrated, idle, gullible and disillusioned.
So, what now? To win their hearts back we don't need rhetoric, empty promises, and utopian dreams. Instead, constructive action backed by strong believable initiatives which are engaging, doable and can be replicated is the need of the hour. In the last financial year, i.e., 2018-19, be it distributing the all-time highest 2,330 bee-boxes under its 'Honey Mission' at Kupwara with the collaboration of Indian Army's Sahyog programme or training-cum-distribution of Electric Potter Wheels among the potters of villages like Likir, Saspole, Sakti and Matho in the minus 18 degree temperature in Leh region with the help of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), with its entrenched people-connect, rural focus and a Nationalist vision, has emerged as the catalyst and the game-changer to bring this most crucial and critical resource, back to the national mainstream and become an equal partner to improve their socio-economic status.
In fact, the KVIC and Indian Army derived a unique model for J&K: To safeguard the jewel of Mother India's crown by providing means of sustainable development to the youth – to keep their minds progressive and dedicated. Let us not forget that 70 per cent of J&K's population is under 31 years of age, yet the unemployment rate is very high. While the state boasts of huge potential in terms of electricity from water resources, exports in horticulture, floriculture, and apiculture, there are other unexplored areas like adventure tourism and culinary tourism, which have huge potential for promoting entrepreneurship in the state. Since obtaining land and licenses is always a tedious task in this State, most of the youth in the valley are running cafes, art galleries, co-working spaces, design studios, etc. While it is important that the government promotes the conventional employment techniques through public sector employment and skill development, it is also important to provide a push for youth initiatives, which have a much larger message to send to the community.
Demonstrative, result oriented and sustainable economic and skill set improving initiatives like the Handmade Paper Conversion Training by KVIC ignite not only the entrepreneurial spark but also high level of "can do" motivation, which is paramount for the state's liberation from apathy, disenchantment and the constant fear of self-created discrimination syndrome. A team of 30 aspiring students had recently come to KVIC's Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute (KNHPI) in Jaipur – to learn the art of
handmade paper-manufacturing so that these future entrepreneurs
could explore their career in this industry. These students were selected under the entrepreneurship development programme of the Indian Army.
One can just imagine if these young impressionable young minds are positively directed and made to believe of their contribution to the environmental and societal impact, the goodwill and the consequent motivational quotient will be huge. And, the KVIC seems to have found the means to channelise these young energetic minds through their education, economic development and ensuring general well-being. After all, entrepreneurship schemes, that are visible in other parts of India, need to be brought to Kashmir as well. Since Indian army and KVIC have begun skill development of youth from Kupwara for paper making and healthy mind and a useful skill can build a nation, it would probably be the best and most novel way to distance jobless Kashmiri youth from the virtual devil's workshop; i.e., subversion by divisive forces. And, the youth from the Valley also appear much decisive about their paths now: say good-bye to terrorism that breaks the nation and adapt skills that make the nation. Much on the lines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dreams of bringing J&K youth back to the mainstream to ensure the progress of India, KVIC and Indian Army are committed to making the dreams of Kashmiri youth prosper. Their dreams are to prosper.
Sample these figures of fiscal 2018-19: Being the nodal agency of ambitious Prime Minister Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), the KVIC not only utilised the funds of Rs 151.94 crore against the target of Rs 47.45 crore, i.e., more than 320 per cent of the estimated target, but also created 48,620 new employment. Similarly, while under 'Honey Mission' KVIC distributed 3,500 Bee-Boxes in Jammu & Kashmir creating 350 direct employment; under the 'Kumhaar Sashktikaran Mission', the KVIC – fiscal 2018-19 distributed 180 Electric Potter Wheels among the kraals (potters) of J&K – including Leh and Ladakh region – creating 720 new jobs.
In the Khadi sector in 2018-19, the KVIC not only registered the production of Rs 52.98 crore and sale of Rs 60.10 crore – which is more than 100 per cent of the targets but also created 15,257 new jobs. The KVIC also added 4 new Khadi institutions in fiscal 2018-19, subsequently creating new direct employment to at least 20 people in J&K.
Self-belief, sense of empowerment and the positive energy thus created can be replicated across the state and has shown that Entrepreneurial Azadi is the way out and not the jingoistic approach, which has pushed the state to brinkmanship and where hatred is the answer. Army and KVIC have worked together in Kupwara on Honey mission and tasted the nectar of success. They now train 30 Kupwara youth on paper-making.
If the above results are any indication, the developmental model adopted by the KVIC – in association with the Indian Army or the LAHDC – can be a real game-changer to bring back the erstwhile glory of the Valley. Remember, if we provide jobs to the youth of J&K, they will have no time to get radicalised. Hope is the best mantra of a good start and KVIC, Indian Army and LAHDC already made a good start. If it will be followed up by all the government and non-government agencies with hard work, nuanced research and, above all, engagement of more and more youth with this model of sustainable development, it will be a game-changer in making Kashmir Valley a paradise as declared by a 17th-century Mughal emperor. It is the high time to be the part of this quest to channelise, aggregate and be the Game-changer.
(The author is Chairman, Khadi & Village Industries Commission. The views expressed are strictly personal)