Pragmatic | The Valley of unemployment

Sustained spell of stability, peace and security will attract corporates to Kashmir.

Reuters has a report on how “the rapid growth of India’s giant economy is finally exerting a pull on the troubled Kashmir Valley”. It focuses on the call centre, run by Essar Group’s business processing arm, AEGIS in Srinagar to highlight this trend. The story goes on to highlight:

Like many developing societies around the globe, Kashmir is experiencing a “youth bulge,” where 71 percent of the population is under the age of 35. Of the large cohort of youth between the ages of 18 to 30 in the Kashmir Valley, an estimated 48 percent are currently unemployed.

In a recent survey conducted by the London-based think tank Chatham House, 96 percent of respondents from the Kashmir Valley identified unemployment as one of the main problems facing the state of Jammu & Kashmir along with conflict and corruption.[Reuters]

Government of India has approved an employment plan (SEE J&K), fully funded by the Centre, to provide job-oriented training to some 40,000 graduates, post-graduates and professional degree holders in the state over a period of five years. With an estimated expenditure of approximately Rs 250,000 per trainee, the plan is based on the recommendations of expert group headed by known economist C Rangarajan set up by the Prime Minister in August 2010. But with an estimated 500,000 unemployed youth in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, this initiative is unlikely to make a significant difference in the short-term.

Although the SEE J&K plan is to be jointly implemented by the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and India’s corporate sector, the answer to unemployment concerns of the state perhaps lies in more direct investment by India’s corporate sector in the Valley. A recent interview of founder chairman and chief mentor of Infosys, NR Narayana Murthy, explains why this isn’t happening.

Dr Faisal: Sir, we have recorded the unprecedented tourist arrivals in Kashmir this year, but unfortunately the investors are still not convinced, they are not still ready to come into the valley. And given that we have a very huge population of educated, unemployed youth and Kashmir does have an advantage when it comes to the software industry, I would just ask you that when is Infosys coming to Kashmir?

Mr Narayana Murthy: Absolutely. You know I was one of the earlier business people to go to Srinagar with Prime Minister Vajpayee and Barkha was also there, and at that point of time I did express that we would like to leverage the enormous strength of the wonderful youngsters that you have. But having said that, the reality is simply this, our business requires that our customers travel time and again in the course of a project. And for that to happen there will have to be, you know, stability, there will have to be a sense of peace, a sense of harmony, a sense of comfort, a sense of safety, and I think with officers like you in charge I have no doubt that we will reach that stable state pretty soon. And I can assure you that once we have that stable state, it will be an absolute privilege for us to come there. But let me assure you, let me tell you that we have lots of Kashmiris employed in Infosys in different development centres, absolutely.[NDTV]

The crux of what Mr Murthy says is this: there has to be stability, a sense of peace, a sense of harmony, a sense of comfort, a sense of safety — in other words, a prolonged spell of normalcy, peace and security for the corporates to invest in the state. The governments, both at the state and the centre, can only do this much to ensure normalcy. It is up to the Kashmiris to ensure that their political grievances are not exploited by Pakistan-backed and -funded separatist leadership to hurt the economic interests of Kashmiris. Current modes of expression of their grievances — whether by the gun or by stones or by shutdowns — need to be discarded in the favour of smarter alternatives, which will provide the average Kashmiri with an opportunity to lead a better life.

In other words, there is a need to get rid of the prevalent political economy of conflict in Kashmir. Because it is all about conflict; it has nothing to do with either politics or economy.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.