India: Kashmiris Pin Hopes on New State Government

By Amin Ahmad
150323-IN-kashmir-protestor-620 An arrested Kashmiri government employee shouts slogans during a protest demanding steady jobs and salary hikes, Feb. 22, 2014.

Residents of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are looking to their state’s new government to end endemic corruption and widespread joblessness.

These issues were electoral planks of the coalition government, which came to power March 1 through an alliance of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Together the two parties ousted the National Conference (NC) party, which had ruled the state for more than 60 years.

“The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fought elections in last December with a pledge to fight corruption and address unemployment in their election manifestos. I’m hopeful the government will spare no efforts to deliver on its promises,” Bashir Ahmad Zargar, a teacher in Budgam district, told BenarNews.

The new chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, has ordered the State Vigilance Organization (SVO) to furnish it with a list of officials suspected of being corrupt.

“SVO is expected to submit a list of tainted officials within a few weeks, and stern action will be taken against those found involved in corruption and misuse of power,” State Minister of Rural Development Abdul Haq Khan told BenarNews.

“The government is committed to providing good governance to the people, who voted in large numbers last year to see a positive change in their lives. The recent decision of the chief minister to terminate contractual appointments of officers who were appointed without following any selection procedure is a step towards ending nepotism,” he said.

Educated but frustrated

According to a new survey by the Union Ministry of Labor and Employment, J&K has the highest unemployment rate in northern India: 10.5 percent of people aged 15 or older have no job, compared with 7.5 percent and 5.8 percent in neighboring Himachal Pradesh and Punjab, respectively.

On March 19, Sayeed told the state assembly that finding jobs for educated youths was his government’s top priority. The new government would develop skills-training program for this segment of the population, he said.

“Where there is a need for an electrician, a skilled electrician must get the job. All recruitment agencies will be galvanized to make fair selections in a time-bound and transparent manner,” Sayeed told the legislature.

“I’m hopeful that the new dispensation will address the growing unemployment in the state on a priority basis. Thousands of posts are lying vacant in various government departments for years, which the authorities should fill without delay,” Nasim Ahmad Bhat, a Srinagar resident who holds a master’s degree in chemistry from Kashmir University, told BenarNews.

Grow private sector jobs

Experts recommend that the new government focus its efforts on developing the state’s largely ignored private sector as a way to solve unemployment and corruption simultaneously.

“The new administration should explore more job avenues for educated youths by developing the private sector, which has been badly hit by over two decades of turmoil in the state,” Noor Ahmad Baba, who teaches political science at Kashmir University, told Benar News.

“It is a good move to do away with contractual system of appointments, as it encouraged nepotism and often deprived meritorious candidates of jobs. The biggest favor to the people of this state would be to rid them of the menace of corruption,” he said.

One observer remained cautious about any dramatic breakthrough in the near future.

“It won’t be a cake walk for the government to curb corruption in the state as the menace is so deep-rooted in the system,” Professor Mohammad Shafi Lone of Kashmir University told Benar News.

“No government in the world can provide government jobs to each educated individual. The state authorities should take measures to fully develop sectors like tourism, floriculture, horticulture and saffron industry to engage a large number of educated youths,” he added.


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