The Centre cannot hold on
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It must let the J&K government run its own employment schemes
Recently, the death of a person killed in firing in Srinagar made headlines. This speaks volumes about the change in Kashmir. A few years back, such "minor" incidents would have barely merited a mention. To be sure, the improved security conditions in Kashmir are not irreversible. The government must ensure that the gains of the last few years are not compromised.
Improving security is necessary to the revitalisation of the state's economy, but it is not the only factor. Tourism, once the mainstay of the state's economy, was badly hit by terrorism. But it appears to have recovered considerably in the last couple of years, with tourist inflows totalling nearly 2 million in 2011. But the state has an unemployment rate of nearly 50 per cent and over 6 lakh youth are registered in the local employment agencies. Tourism, by itself, cannot fulfil the economic aspirations of the Kashmiri youth.
The state has practically no industries. Although the investment climate has improved substantially, industrialisation will remain a challenge for various reasons, ranging from the fragile security situation to limitations on land ownership under Article 370.
It is clear that some degree of economic migration is inevitable if the dire employment situation is to be addressed. But the Kashmir valley has remained a relatively insular society, for both historical and political reasons. So it faces additional challenges in fully participating in the Indian growth story. Recognising this, the government of India launched the Himayat programme in 2011. It is designed as a training-cum-placement programme in which low-income unemployed youth get skill-based training for three months and are then placed in private companies, with a guaranteed tenure of one year.
However, as reported by Greater Kashmir, an appraisal of the Himayat programme conducted for the state government reveals that the programme has had limited success. Many beneficiaries were disillusioned, some actually preferred to return home. Low salaries, unattractive job profiles and possible discrimination, have been cited as reasons for the programme's unpopularity. In response, the Indian government has assured additional support, including financial incentives, to make Himayat more attractive.