Kashmir: The future in your hands

Views from Srinagar

Bilal Ahmad Dar

UNEMPLOYMENT has been a major challenge in Kashmir for a long time.
Poor culture of enterprise and the existing unemployment situation in the state is now a major driver of poverty and social vice. Unemployment has assumed a multi-dimensional phenomenon cutting across all facets of life across age groups, educational strata and geographies.
More disturbing today is the ever rising trend of youth unemployment in Kashmir. Many people are unemployed because they have not acquired the kind of skills that are frequently demanded in the environment they operate in.
However after 2007, the Entrepreneurship Development Institute in the state has made some valuable contribution by helping and advocating a strong opportunity in promoting entrepreneurship.
But there are still many youth including Universities graduates, products of polytechnics and colleges of education roaming the streets looking for regular employments that are non-existent.
Although several attempts have been made at encouraging entrepreneurial activities in state in last few years, real entrepreneurs have rarely emerged. It is therefore not surprising that only minimal success has been recorded.
The truth is that they did not have a significant, lasting and sustainable positive effect.
Entrepreneurship can be a model for youth empowerment in transitioning to employment through entrepreneurial education the overall goal of which should be to impart students and our youths with the right attitudes, knowledge and skills to compete in the existing environment, and thus empowering and preparing them to thrive in the somewhat unstructured and uncertain nature of today’s conditions.
The socio-economic situation in the state poses serious threats and challenges to both the government and the wellbeing of citizens as a whole.
Entrepreneurship education provides students with motivation, knowledge, and skills essential for launching a successful venture.
It should be available to all college students regardless of what their major courses and choice of studies are to enhance their respective competitive advantages.
The economy of Jammu and Kashmir has suffered from disturbed conditions prevailing in the state since past 26 years.
Both the centre and state governments are trying to put the economy back on the rails by enabling the average person to get employment opportunities in a state ridden with violence and having a population 600,000 unemployed youths.
The challenges before the state are immense. In this scenario, the thrust should be on employment generation for the youth in state.
Entrepreneurship is the process of creating something new with value by devoting the necessary time and effort, with the accompanying financial and social risks, and receiving in return monetary rewards, personal satisfaction and independence. In this era of shrinking economic activities, government should endeavor to provide the necessary infrastructure required for skills acquisition among its citizenry.
This is because without technological skills, entrepreneurial spirit which drives economic development through job creation will be lacking.
Entrepreneurship is essential for rapid and sustained economic growth, but there is an urgent need to change the mindset of the youths towards embracing self-employment and de-emphasize the search for white collar jobs that are non-existent.
Kashmir in many respects also faces problems of isolation, and lack of an industrial base and thus very few employment opportunities.
However, the state is vested with a substantial water resource, mineral base, and is famous the world over for its exquisite handicrafts, handloom products, tourism, horticulture produce and cottage industry.
While the state has enormous potential for the flourishing of various industries, it has lagged behind in the field of industrialization.
Public sector units have generally failed to perform and the private sector has not flourished in the state.
Although the state has made sustained efforts, based on its industrial potential, to develop industry and elevate its economic standard, it has still to go a long way to find a place on the industrial map.
Therefore, it is imperative to identify and exploit the productive capabilities of the different regions of the state to trigger growth impulses, thereby facilitating the process of economic take-off.
For promoting prosperity and ensuring equitable economic development throughout the state, the state government should encourage the flow of investments in areas with high employment potential.
At enabling enterprise, I believe entrepreneurship can provide a space for young people to stand up and take ownership of their ideas, talent and skills, which will guide them in their next steps by setting up and running their own projects.
With the potential for real and meaningful impact, young people should create opportunities to take the lead and come up with creative solutions to the problems which matter to them.
All we do is set the challenge and provide a structure to help guide them create the opportunities.
Entrepreneurship is more than an activity, it is also an approach by empowering young people to harness to their own resources.
Entrepreneurship can provide a fruitful model for practitioners seeking to support young people in their transitions to employment through gaining direct ownership over their achievements, as well as the challenges they overcome.
In a climate like Kashmir where many young people feel affected by circumstances beyond their control, by encouraging participation, skills development and youth leadership we can be confident that youth will take the future back into their own hands.
—Courtesy: Kashmir Reader
[The writer is a PhD scholar at the School of Business and Management, National University, Jaipur]

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