Two days after the abrogation of Article 370, which gave ‘special status’ to Jammu & Kashmir, PM Modi, in an 8 PM address to the nation, had promised that the days of suffering, for the people of J&K, had come to an end, and better days were on their way. He assured the nation, especially the people of J&K, that this historic act would usher in a new dawn in the region and help in the development of opportunities for the youth in J&K.
Explaining his vision, the PM had stated that the move to bring J&K under the Centre’s rule as a Union Territory would promote private investments in the region as well as employment. He strongly expressed his commitment to fill up thousands of pending vacancies in J&K in a transparent and fast-tracked manner, thus, raising the expectations of unemployed youth in J&K. With about nine months having passed by, and nothing substantial being done till now, the memory of all these promises that were made rekindle a feeling of agony and angst among the youth of this newly carved-out UT.
Promises Made to J&K’s Youth
Within a month of the abrogation of the special status of J&K, the then Governor Satya Pal Malik announced that 50,000 vacant government posts would be filled in the next few months, thereby calling upon the youth to enthusiastically participate in the recruitment drive. His claims were further buttressed when central minister Dr Jitendra Singh, in a bid to address the concerns of the local populace, assured the locals that promised jobs and more would be provided to the youth.
A similar assurance was made by the first Lieutenant Governor of this newly-created UT when he stated that a process was underway to provide jobs to 30,000- 40,000 youth of Jammu and Kashmir in police and other forces.
Despite all the assurances, the youth seem to have been made to swallow the bitter pill of reconciling with the fact that these are ‘hollow promises’, which were then made to soothe the heartburn and resentment that the abrogation of Article 370 and downgrading of J&K’s statehood might have caused.
Alarming Unemployment Levels
Since the country's unemployment rate is at a 45-year high, touching a figure of 6.1 percent, the unemployment figures with regard to J&K are even more alarming. The unemployment rate in the erstwhile state stood at 15.89 percent in 2019, making it one of the worst performers on the job generation front. In a first-of-its kind exercise that was carried out by the Governor’s administration in 2019, the Directorate of Employment had asked the unemployed youth with basic post graduation degrees, MPhil or PhD, to register themselves with the district employee exchanges in their respective districts.
The survey indicated that the total number of unemployed PG scholars stood at an alarming figure of around 3 lakh, and the unemployment rates among graduate, technical degree holders, post graduates, was even more higher. All these figures amply demonstrate the grim situation the youth of J&K have been forced to face despite tall promises from the highest offices of this country.
The refurbished nature of our status in the Union of India post-Article 370 doesn’t seem to have made prospects brighter for us. The bureaucratic noose that has taken hold of the destiny of the hapless youth of J&K seem to be too casual in charting out a new course for us. J&K’s apex recruitment agency, J&K PSC, which has remained defunct since the erstwhile state embraced its new status of UT, has jeopardised the future of several examination processes which were already underway.
Hopes seemed to be resurrected when LG Girish Chandra Murmu, on 5 May 2020, appointed former Chief Secretary and retired IAS officer Braj Raj Sharma as Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission (JKPSC).
Happiness wasn’t to last long as the order had to be withdrawn within hours, as Sharma had been granted two years extension as the SSC Chairman only on 20 April by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This faux pas speaks volumes about about the ‘Naya Jammu-Kashmir’ that PM Modi had envisioned for the youth of this erstwhile state. Mr Sharma, since then, has been reappointed its Chairman by a fresh order, but the wait for other members continues, which has impacted work.
Another issue that has stifled the aspirations of the jobless youth in J&K is the unprofessional and shabby manner in which the recruitment processes have been conducted in recent times. What happened with the mega recruitment of J&K Bank 2018 heaped unbearable insult on thousands of unemployed job aspirants of J&K. More than one lakh aspirants from all over Jammu and Kashmir applied for these posts which were suddenly scrapped without assigning any reasons or fixing accountability for the lapses which led to it being scrapped. Callousness in the conduct of our bureaucracy and recruitment agencies has led to recruitment processes getting entangled in a quagmire of litigation, which spans years, thereby spelling doom for those appearing for these recruitment exams.
Urgent Need for Reform
This grim situation calls for the urgent attention of those at the helm, to urgently revisit the existing recruitment policies which have failed to deal with the growing employment distress. The policies governing our recruitment matters need to be updated with more focus on the fast-track recruitment and time-bound completion of the examination process. A serious thought also needs to be given to the composition of the J&K Public Service Commission by incorporating members of the highest level of integrity and professionalism.
Moreover, since the government has not undertaken any process of recruitment since February 2019, the vacancies in various government departments need to be notified at the earliest.
The political masters of this great nation need to appreciate the fact that the way New Delhi annulled Article 370 and downgraded a state into a UT without wider consultations, has created a severe negative impact on the psyche of the youth of J&K. To rebuild the trust, and to win back their confidence, the government must immediately address the issues concerning the educated unemployed youth of J&K. Addressing this might create a sense of oneness and soothe the bruises which are the result of broken promises.
(Basit Amin Makhdoomi is a lawyer at the J&K High Court. He tweets @BasitMakhdoomi. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)