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, April 22, 2009

Tackling Unemployment

Tanvir describes his blue print for the most pressing problem of the day

(Mr. Tanvir Sadiq, 31, was born in Srinagar and attended the Burn Hall School. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Information technology and management from Orissa University. He is the youngest Municipal Corporator of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and was elected from Zadibal Constituency. He has contributed regularly to local newspapers like the Kashmir Times, Kashmir Images, Greater Kashmir, and Kashmir Monitor. He was associated with many programs on Disaster Management of J & K and did a couple of programs on highlighting urban poverty. He is active in State politics and his interests are writing and social work.)

An Idea....!

Some wise man once observed that if you give a poor man some bread, you feed him for one day. But if you teach the poor man how to grow food, you feed a whole generation. I could be paraphrasing this saying incorrectly but all I want to accomplish is convey the message. Same is true in dealing with the issue of unemployment in Kashmir. Generating more government jobs is not the solution. What we need is some serious aid from other parts of India and overseas in training our youth in areas such as technical trades, intensive agriculture, electronics and computers, and modern construction techniques.

The purpose of education should not be to simply churn out graduates with worthless degrees who contribute very little to society, and whose only goal in life is to procure a civil service job. I personally know hundreds if not thousands of youth with multiple PHd's and yet they are unemployed, greying in the hopes of getting a foothold into the public service. It is not their fault that today's society has very little to offer them in terms of employment or means of earning a living for all their hard work and dedication in earning their degrees. It is the fault of our education system for not having the vision to foresee that the ultimate goal of any education should be to secure the future of the student economically and not to add uncertainty. Sadly, today's education system has failed in this regard.

The most stark difference in the education system of other countries and our Indian system of education is that our focus here is on generating more degree holders without consideration for the interests and capabilities of the students. The students trust the education system and work endless hours to finally pass the grueling exams and after three or four years of treading the tortuous path of education, they finally make it only to be added to the sad statistics of unemployed youth in Kashmir. It is for no fault of theirs. This is the responsibility of the government to devise strategies for the best possible utilization of the state's manpower, and I am certain things will change in this direction in the near future.

The current polytechnic colleges in Kashmir should be our blueprint to work with. My mother is one of the instructors in the women's polytechnic therefore I can talk about this with authority. These polytechnics are a phenomenal success and without a doubt the students who pass from these colleges are in a much better state in terms of being self-employed or being employed in some private firms. They fare much better than my friends holding multiple degrees in arts, history, or physics from degree colleges. Why this discrepancy? because these polytechnic colleges took the initiative of imparting education that helps meet the student's immediate needs in terms of being employable right after completing their courses. Sadly, there is a cap on how many students these polytechnic colleges can enroll and therefore many students are left out.

I suggest that the government put all resources in action and open up polytechnic colleges so that all students, whether old or young are able to enroll in them to seek valuable applied knowledge. By 'applied knowledge' I mean courses that will meet their immediate needs, courses such as "auto repairing" "tailoring" "computer network" "computer repair and maintenance" "cellular repairing" "horticulture" "crop disease diagnosis" "carpentry" "masonry" and the list goes on. We all are aware of that these courses are offered in all community colleges in other countries and has helped ease the unemployment numbers in these countries.

We also know that apart from the two polytechnic colleges in Kashmir, there are no other institutions where students can learn about these applied skills without being charged an arm and a leg for learning these courses. For instance, a student is charged ten thousand rupees at a private computer centre just for learning basic computer skills. This scares away many students from seeking applied skills and thus the cycle of dearth of skilled manpower continues.

If unconventional courses such as "intensive agriculture" or "green house production" are taught in Kashmir on a regular basis with the help of aid from overseas leaders in this field such as experts from Holland, it could jump start an altogether unique industry in Kashmir. Remember it doesn't necessarily take an million dollar investment to start an industry. Kashmiris have the skill and the diligence to learn and innovate. All we need is a jumpstart.

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