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.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Educating out of Kashmir

Suhail sees a dead end for educated youth in so far as Kashmir's job market is concerned

(Mr. Suhail Ahmad, 27, was born in Srinagar. He did his Bachelor's degree from Sri Pratap College, Srinagar, and completed both his Master's and M. Phil degrees in Mass
Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir, Srinagar. He is currently working with local English daily ‘Rising Kashmir’ as Sub Editor (News). Previously he worked with the Daily Etalaat (English) as sub-editor and with the ‘Mirror of Kashmir’ as an associate editor. Mr. Ahmad has worked with a Delhi based rights group, The Other Media, heading its civil society initiative desk at Srinagar from 2007 to 2009. He has also worked with an NGO - Institute of Peace Research and Action (IPRA) on its project Cultural Renewal of Kashmiri Student Youth as Programme Officer and Editor from 2006 to 2007. I edited severalissues of IPRA’s magazine ‘Guftaar.’)

Kashmir’s Job Wars

“We have to reverse the brain drain that has denuded Jammu and Kashmir of many of the teachers, doctors, engineers and intellectuals. We have to create the conditions for them to return and to be the instruments of change and development.” This was Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh speaking at a public meeting in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district on October 28, 2009.

The issue of brain drain is not unique to J&K, but the political and economic instability in the state has meant that more and more well-educated youth are moving outside for jobs; the problem being more pronounced in Kashmir valley. Forget about convincing the professionals to return to the valley, the government has utterly failed to stem further exodus.

Youth are regarded as the greatest asset of a nation. Kashmir, unfortunately, is losing this asset to frustration. Even the prime minister seemed to feel this frustration when he said in the same address, “I understand their frustration. But things are changing. I urge them to think constructively about how to build their futures.”

Now two years down the line, Dr Singh cannot blame youth of valley for not thinking constructively about their future. After all how can they think of their future in Kashmir which is itself mired in political as well as economic instability?

Unable to come to terms with the unpredictable political situation and the lack of employment avenues, Kashmiri youth look outside for jobs. In fact the more qualified a boy is, the more likely he is to be disappointed for the lack of proper career opportunities in the valley. It often leads to a chain reaction where a boy working outside is soon joined by his unemployed brother, friends and a cousin or two. For most of them, there is no looking back unless they have some domestic problems seeking their return home or if they happen to land a government or bank job.

Over the years, a number of courses have been introduced at college and university level in the valley like Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Management Studies, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Journalism and many more. However, the employment scope of these courses in the state remains as limited as it was at the time of their inception. As a result, the army of unemployed educated youth gets larger and larger. After completing their graduation and post graduation in these job-specific courses, they are faced with the dilemma of either moving outside the state or to apply for any nature of government job. So we have prospective biochemists working as probationary officers in J&K Bank, talented environment science pass outs serving in Food & Supplies Department and MA Journalism students teaching in some private schools. The brain drain phenomenon should not be seen in isolation. There is a sheer wastage of brain power at display in Kashmir itself in the form of highly talented youth rendered useless in misfit government or private jobs.

In a place where private sector is highly underdeveloped, the heavy reliance on government jobs is understandable. Every government job comes with a big price tag. Politicians know this and they cash in on people’s weakness. In fact many political parties including the ruling National Conference used the promise of government jobs as bait to seek votes. Even as NC-led coalition has completed two years in power, the unemployment crisis is as grave as it was before Omar Abdullah assumed the mantle of providing jobs to Kashmiri youth. In effect the people’s dependence on government jobs serves the purpose of politicians so much so that they reinforce this dependence.

Last year in May, the chief minister called for reversal of brain drain in health sector and the need for return of non-resident J&K medicos from foreign countries to help improve medical facilities in the state. One wonders as to what has the government done to convince them to leave their much better paid jobs to work in J&K against lesser wages and poor facilities. More importantly what has it done to ensure that no more youth are forced to leave their homeland in search of jobs? The government sure has no clue.

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