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.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Can Entrepreneurship Succeed in the Land of Maximum License Raj?

Rafiuddin saheb has high hopes while doubts are for everyone to see and note all around

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

Boosting Entrepreneurship

In absence of sense of entrepreneurship, the educated youth have not been able to think beyond a government job which ultimately has turned the state government as the biggest job market

The Jammu and Kashmir government has taken a giant step by announcing an initial corpus fund for entrepreneurship development in the state. Finance Minister Abdur Rahim Rather in his first budget speech presented in the Assembly on August 10 earmarked Rs 25 crores for this purpose. This amount is being kept at the disposal of Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) which will further the agenda.

This is for the first time the government has seriously taken up the Entrepreneurship, which has been so far neglected. Mr Rather in his speech made the intentions of government abundantly clear saying “Centrally sponsored schemes are generally linked to motivated and prospective entrepreneurs. EDI is asked to offer a package which apart from sensitization, training and consultancy inputs shall include an incentive in the form of non refundable seed money to enable prospective entrepreneurs to kick start their ventures and make their projects bankable”. He said that in order to achieve this goal the Entrepreneurship Development Fund (EDF) has been created. Following this a well conceived scheme will be framed up for the prospective, motivated, trained and provisionally registered first generation entrepreneurs who can enter into agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, food processing and medicinal plants cultivation.

Government’s move to boost entrepreneurship is something which should be lauded as the entrepreneurship development has not been promoted in the state as has been done in other states of India. In absence of sense of entrepreneurship, the educated youth have not been able to think beyond a government job which ultimately has turned the state government as the biggest job provider. This is a stark reality that we have 40 percent more manpower in the government than required. Such a tendency has severely affected the skills of youth who always look for a government job which is considered to be the only secured area of employment. Even a Post Graduate in this state prefers to be a fourth class employee rather than trying to carve a place for himself.

This remains a fact that for being an entrepreneur an educated youth in this state suffers a lot in wake of red tapism and corruption at all the levels. His patience is tested at every stage through this sick system generally leave people crest fallen. Banks in the state also been a hurdle in the development of entrepreneurship as the age old tradition of discouraging people has come in way of enthusiastic youth. However, things have started changing now. First for the reason that corporatization around the globe has given tough competition to state owned institutions forcing them to toe the line which private institutions have set for themselves. Second that the less opportunity of jobs in government sector has somehow dawned the realization that it was a diminishing sector.

In this whole backdrop the only answer for eradicating unemployment is the entrepreneurship. No doubt this area is new to our state though JKEDI which came into existence in 2004 has carved a niche for itself. From the Union Minister of the stature of Jairam Ramesh to Finance Minister of Jammu and Kashmir all those who matter in the government set up have recognized its contribution in the field. That is the reason that EDI is considered to be the most trusted institution in the industrial sector and government has earmarked this significant for this. EDF for that matter is bound to revolutionize the concept of entrepreneurship in the state. Its simple purpose is to provide principle amount or margin money to young entrepreneurs who generally would call it a day after getting trained of sensitized from EDI. Not only this, but a large chunk of funds from National Minorities and Finance Development Corporation (NMDFC) is to be channelised through EDI. This was earlier done through Women’s Development Corporation and SC/ST Corporation in which latter has failed to lift the required amount of loans. Under this Corporation controlled by Government of India, the EDI will now give loans to prospective entrepreneurs on a very low interest of 6 percent upto Rs 5 lakh as against standing interest rate of more than 13 percent from other banks.

So far the scope of entrepreneurship in this state has been very low as it was not explored and the talent of youth was wasted in government jobs where they would end up laidback workers. Now the government has come up with a boosting scheme it is time to take it to its logical conclusion. We do not doubt the sincerity of government particularly that of Finance Minister at this stage. But the past experience has shown that such schemes are ultimately used as a tool by the political parties to strengthen their votebank. That is why the credibility of institutions is at stake in this state. In order to achieve the goal for which such a whopping amount has been earmarked, a path for a foolproof mechanism which is devoid of any political interference should be set out which will help state to grow in entrepreneurship thus finding a final answer to unemployment.

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