Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Can Kashmir Valley Become Another Silicon Valley?

Shahid hosts an important 2-day meeting bringing Indian expertise (NASSCOM) and Kashmiri finance (J&K Bank) together to develop an ambitious plan to equip 5000 students for global IT industry every year

(Dr. Shahid Rasool Bhat, 44, was born in Handwara. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Science from the University of Kashmir, and Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Department of Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the University of Kashmir. Subsequently, he joined the University staff and with funding from the University Grants Commission (UGC), created numerous educational documentaries. He was selected as a Fullbright Scholar by the U.S. government in 1998 and completed a Master's degree in Communication Technology from the Syracuse University, New York, in 1999. He completed his Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Kashmir in 2008. In May 2005 he took over as the Director of the Educational Multi Media Research Centre (EMMRC), and now is also the head of the MERC. He has numerous publications and documentaries to his credit, and has spoken at numerous seminars and workshops related to audio-visual and media advances. He has also received numerous awards related to his work.)

Final Day: JK Bank offers Citizens’ Initiative to redefine IT policy for the State

Suhail Ahmad (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Revealing its “Mission Kashmir”, IT consortium National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) on the concluding day of the J&K IT Conclave reiterated its commitment to equip Kashmiri youth with skills needed to succeed in services sector like IT, tourism, health services, finance, and education. The assertion was followed with an offer from J&K Bank to sponsor a “Citizens’ Initiative” involving Kashmir University, NASSCOM and J&K Bank to redefine the IT policy for the State

The two-day conclave was organized by NASSCOM in collaboration with Kashmir University’s Electronic Multimedia Research Centre (EMMRC) and Media Education Research Centre (MERC).

In his keynote address, Chairman NASSCOM, Dr Ganesh Natarajan said J&K holds enormous potential. “And I am 100 per cent sure that the potential can be tapped,” Natarajan said. “Our plan is to see that every year at least 5000 students from the State join the international IT industry,” he said.

He said NASSCOM endeavours to equip Kashmiri youth with skills needed to succeed in services sector like IT, tourism, health services, finance, education, BPO's etc.
“This is our real Mission Kashmir,” he said.

Chairman J&K Bank, Dr Haseeb Drabu in his presidential address expressed concern that the State has not been able to make much head way despite some good initiatives regarding the skill development and employment of local youth.

He attributed the failure to the pre-conceived notion that the models successful elsewhere could be employed as much effectively in the State. Dr Drabu said unfortunately the companies have announced plans without making efforts to understand the state as an economy and as a civil society. “The companies come here with the promise of providing thousands of jobs. How will they create so many jobs in a short span without considering specific requirements of the place,” he said.

He also warned against the “trivialization of technology” saying that the technology has become almost synonymous with employment. “IT needs to be looked as a process rather than as an industry. It needs to be looked as an enabler of business,” Drabu said.

Stating that J&K Bank is the only listed company in the State, Drabu said the other industries have not grown over the years due to ad hoc measures for their upgradation. “We need to know why our businesses do not grow beyond a point, he asked “We don’t need to invest in business of technology. Rather we should invest in technology of business,” he said.

Stressing on the need assessment of the State, Drabu said, “Need of the hour is to help the small and medium businesses in Kashmir to grow.”

While listing the steps taken by J&K Bank in creating an enabling atmosphere for the purpose, Drabu offered to sponsor a “Citizens’ Initiative” involving KU, NASSCOM and J&K Bank to redefine the IT policy for the State.

Earlier, welcoming the participants, Director EMMRC and Head MERC, Shahid Rasool said the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in higher education is imperative in contemporary times.

He said the academia and industry should join hands for mutual good and for the good of society. “Announcing new universities and colleges is not enough, it is to be matched with creation of quality infrastructure and capable and trained manpower,” Shahid said, adding, “We must make use of new technology, for taking quality education to the students especially in the rural areas.”

In his address, Registrar KU, Prof Syed Fayaz Ahmad said the aim of the programme is to make education economically relevant, and to make it an engine of change and development in true sense. He stressed the need to bridge the gap between the education system and the need of the times. “Industry is moving ahead but the education system is not able to catch up with it. In fact education should be ahead of the times,” Fayaz said. “The purpose of the conclave was to formulate strategy to transform educational system with industry and government support,” he added.

The programme will be implemented right from framing the courses in view of the industry demands, providing the students industry exposure coupled with skill development and training to placement in the companies. He said the programme will not be confined to the Kashmir University, and will be extended throughout the State.

Kashmir University has been chosen as the nodal agency by NASSCOM and the State government for programme implementation. “KU will be playing pivotal role in bringing the transformation in the society,” Fayaz said.

Speaking about the potential of IT, chairman NASSCOM said the 64 billion dollar industry, which constitutes about 6 per cent of India’s GDP, has grown 15 times in the last 10 years.

Stating that IT sector provides a level playing field, he said, “There is disparity within India with south ahead of north India as far as growth is concerned. But the IT sector provides the opportunity to equalize this growth.”

Natarajan said during a business conclave held in Mumbai some time back J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah had told the industry leaders though time has not come for them to invest in J&K, but he wants them to come to Kashmir and groom the skills of the youth.

Mumbai based film-maker of Kashmiri origin, Ashok Koul turned nostalgic reciting some verses about his attachment with Kashmir and its people. Koul’s presentation focussed on Animation and Gaming as career opportunities. He said animation finds use in entertainment, engineering, aviation, health care, advertising and other fields, and thereby provides good employment opportunities. “According to the latest survey, animation industry will grow from the current Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore. Global animation market is worth 50-70 billion dollars, while Indian market is to touch 1.5 billion dollars,” he said.

Rajesh Gopal, vice president MeritTrac, a skills assessment company, talked about the need for enhancing employability skills.

His presentation deliberated about NAC-Tech, a skills assessment programme for engineering students devised by the IT industry to benchmark entry-level skills. The programme evaluates candidates on their foundation skills like communication, analytical abilities as well as technical skills.

The NAC-Tech programme is aimed at addressing the demand-supply gap by helping students understand the requirements of the industry, assess and improve their skills, and tap employment opportunities.

Dr Uma Ganesh, CEO- Global talent Track spoke about the use of IT potential by integrating skills with education curriculum “so that by the time student come out of institutes, they are already equipped with necessary set of skills needed for employment.”

Producer EMMRC, Ajaz-ul-Haque anchored the proceedings.

First day: NASSCOM to enhance employability of Kashmiri youth

Srinagar: Information Technology (IT) sector may well pave way for solution to the unemployment crisis in Jammu and Kashmir. NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) is all set to undertake a comprehensive project to hone the skills of Kashmiri youth and also prepare them for employment in the IT and IT enabled service sectors.

According to NASSCOM chairman Dr Ganesh Natarajan, the global trade body aims to benefit as many people as possible in Kashmir with its employability training programmes.

“Over the next few months, we will set up a format for the programme. To begin with we will take 500 students for training and placement. In July we will meet chief minister Omar Abdullah and brief him about the action taken report,” he said during his key-note address at the inaugural function of the two-day J&K IT Conclave organized in collaboration with Kashmir University’s Electronic Multimedia Research Centre (EMMRC) and Media Education Research Centre (MERC) here on Monday.

Deliberating on the status of IT industry in India and its unparalleled growth, he said the sector has employed 22 lakh people directly, and 60 lakh through indirect employment.

Stating that IT and IT enabled services constitute 5.5 per cent to India’s GDP, he went on to say that the sector can still employ four to five times more youth in future.

Natarajan expressed hope for development of Srinagar and Jammu on the pattern of Pune and Hyderabad, which are known for their industrial growth especially in software sector.

“I would like to see Srinagar as part of the next phase of IT growth,” he said.
NASSCOM chairman also deliberated on the “learner centric” model of programme implementation explaining the awareness, employability, employment and professional development stages.

While highlighting the benefits of dual vocational system, he emphasised on the internship programmes by which the students can be groomed for various industries even while they are studying.

Earlier, welcoming the participants Director EMMRC and Head MERC, Dr Shahid Rasool emphasised the need for linkages between industry and academia to help hone the talent of student youth and also help them secure employment.

“Institutes cannot expect to excel or even survive by remaining isolated. Interaction between institutes and industry is imperative for the benefit of both,” he said.

Registrar of Kashmir University, Prof Syed Fayaz Ahmad informed the gathering that the idea for industry-academia collaboration was mooted by chief minister Omar Abdullah, and thanked NASSCOM for responding to the call. “NASSCOM and the state government have chosen Kashmir University as a nodal agency for the programme, and we will extend the benefits to other institutes as well,” he said.

Earlier in the day, NASSCOM team interacted with the varsity officials about the various aspects of the programme.

Other members of the visiting team also addressed the inaugural session of the conclave. CEO Harvard Research Centre, Anjali Raina spoke about the need for bridging the gap between learning and employability by “accelerating the learning.”

Rajesh Gopal, vice president MeritTrac, a skills assessment company, deliberated on the employability enhancement model.

Lavanya Jayaram, India Country Head- Zensar Technologies also spoke about the IT potential of India adding that 2.23 lakh jobs were added in the sector in 2008 alone, and 60 lakh more jobs will be added by 2020. She also deliberated on the use of technology for producing more trained workforce

Eishan Raina and Sandhya Chintala also spoke on the occasion.

NASSCOM is a global trade body with more than 1200 members, which include both Indian and multinational companies. NASSCOM's member and associate member companies are broadly in the business of software development, software services, software products, consulting services, BPO services, e-commerce and web services, engineering services offshoring and animation and gaming. NASSCOM’s membership base constitutes over 95 per cent of the industry revenues in India and employs over 2.24 million professionals.

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