Kashmir is suffering from brain drain

Views from Srinagar
Suhail Ahmad

KASHMIR has been suffering from brain drain for a long time now. The perpetual political and economic instability has meant that more and more well-educated youth move outside for jobs. Forget about convincing the professionals to return to the valley, the government has utterly failed to stem further exodus.
Unable to come to terms with the unpredictable political situation and lack of employment avenues, Kashmiri youth look outside for jobs.
The more qualified a boy, the more likely he is to be disappointed for the lack of suitable 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 forcing their return home or if they happen to land in a government or bank job.
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. Over the years, a number of courses have been introduced at college and university level in the valley. 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.
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, the political parties use the promise of government jobs as bait to seek votes. In effect people’s dependence on government jobs serves the purpose of politicians so much so that they reinforce this dependence.
Following the 2016 uprising, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti urged Kashmiri youth to help her in bringing back peace to the valley so that she can create jobs for them. “I request you to the help me in bringing back peace here.
I will bring the Prime Minister here and ask him to find ways to address the unemployment issue faced by the youth,” Mehbooba said during a youth convention organised by her party in March earlier this year.
“Give me peace, I will recruit you in tourism (sector). Give me peace, we will get you trained in Public Health Engineering and Irrigation. Peace is imperative,” she added.
However, the unemployment crisis remains as grave as it was before Mehbooba assumed the mantle of providing jobs to Kashmiri youth.
Unemployment and brain drain co-exist. Both reflect non-utilisation of human resources.
In an article on ‘Unemployment and Brain Drain’, published in Economic and Political Weekly, Kamalesh Ray terms unemployment as internal brain drain, while losing qualified personnel to foreign countries constitutes external brain drain.
Speaking at a public meeting in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district in October 2009, former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh stressed on the need 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,” he had said.
Kashmir’s young and skilled labour force leaves in search of better returns for their talent and work.
But wages are not the only reason why they move outside. Quality of higher education is another important factor which drives this brain drain.
Kashmir lags behind in terms of quality higher education. What if our young talent decides to stay back or come back from abroad, does our system have the capacity to absorb them? The answer is unfortunately a big no.
For instance, successive governments have 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. However, nothing has been done to convince them to leave their much better paid jobs to work in J&K against lesser wages and poor facilities.
The governments have done nothing to ensure that no more youth are forced to leave their homeland in search of jobs.

—Courtesy: RK
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