Why is Govt largest employer in JK?
NASEER A GANAI
Srinagar, Jan 31: Jammu and Kashmir government employs nearly 4 lakh persons, a ratio of 34.6 employees for every thousand persons. Every year the government pays Rs 5000 crores as salary to its employees.
Officials say though the present government has not yet chalked out any plan for new creations and employment, the previous government had promised some 70,000 more jobs.
“The present government has not stated anything about new creations and we don’t know its mind about government jobs. But the fact is, in the given situation where we have no private sector investment, government jobs seem to be the only solution,” a senior official said.
“It is sad. But in Jammu and Kashmir government is considered to be the only employer. Elsewhere in the world the government employs people to run administration. Here it employs to create employment,” says former Finance minister, Muzaffer Hussain Baig.
He argues that people could earn a lot in sectors like poultry and sheep-breeding but no one comes forward to develop these sectors, making the government jobs only alternative.
In May 2008, the Ghulam Nabi Azad government announced creation of 70,000 jobs in the state. The officials of the Employment department say there are 3 lakh educated unemployed youth in the state. “The people usually now don’t come for registration in the employment exchanges as it is not mandatory under new guidelines of the Apex Court. But rough estimate is around 3 lakh,” said an official.
The Rajasthan government employs about 6 lakh persons. But it is about five-and-a-half times bigger than Jammu and Kashmir in terms of population.
Baig argues that government jobs would remain in demand unless people here develop entrepreneur temperament despite the state having locational disadvantage for investment.
However, Shakeel Qalander, president Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir disagrees. He cites the example of closure of veneer and ply-board industrial units. The Industries department had registered 85 such units in Kashmir valley, employing nearly 5000 people. However before registration of the units the Industries department had to seek clearance from the Central Empowered Committee. Following October 10, 2002 order of the Apex Court, the state government had to conduct a survey about the raw material used for making veneer and ply board. For the past seven years the Forest and Industries departments have failed to figure out who has to conduct the survey.
Qalandar says the state government should have conducted the survey and then pleaded before the CEC that the veneer and ply board industry of Kashmir had nothing to do with the forests but instead poplar, an agriculture product, was being used as raw material. But the government failed to do it and instead decided to close down the units. “This bureaucratic inefficiency renders private sector vulnerable and forces people to prefer government jobs,” says Qalandar.
But senior officials in the government describe the closure as isolated incident and argue that it should not be construed as yardstick. They say there are hundreds of units in other sectors that were closed down by the unit holders after getting subsidies. “The government job has become an additional income resource for most of the government employees making it lucrative among educated youth of the state,” says an official. He said government jobs have become so lucrative that those who are already in it demand enhancement in retirement age to retain “benefits of doing nothing and getting salary.”
The entrepreneurs however say the government has not created necessary infrastructure to build a strong private sector. The raw material, they argue, is being sent outside the state and by design Kashmir has been turned into a consumer economy. “It is such a consumer economy where it is not getting benefit of being a consumer even,” said an entrepreneur. He said whenever the infrastructure has been raised, the state has done it for its benefit and if people get benefit of the infrastructure they get it by chance of being in the vicinity.
Baig however refuses to buy the argument. He says when the government tried to build infrastructure in Gulmarg it was not allowed to do so. “Had it happened, we would have hosted international games here but it didn’t happen because some people made an issue of it,” he said.
However, the former Finance minister, Tariq Hamid Qarra, said the scarcity of power in the state was major stumbling block. He said the lack of power was making investment difficult. “There have been examples when investors left the state due to power scarcity,” he said. He argues unless the state was not compensated on account of the Indus Water Treaty and it is not made self-reliant in power the private sector investment would not come to Kashmir and the government has to be only employer.
State does well, still
Economists say that in spite of reliance on government jobs, the state does quite well in terms of socio-economic development. The literacy level (64.8%) is almost at par with the national level (65.4%). Its sex ratio (923/1000) is nearly at par with the national average (933/1000). The birth rate (19.9/1000) is lower than the national average (25.8). The death rate (5.4/1000) is also lower than the national average (8.5/1000). The infant mortality rate (45/1000) is also superior to the national average (68/1000). The official per capita income of Jammu and Kashmir is Rs. 12,399 and is lower than India’s Rs.16,707. But it is much better than Bihar’s Rs. 5108 or Orissa’s Rs. 8547. In the last 10 years JK’s poverty level has
dropped from 25.17% to a mere 3.48%. The poverty level in India still hovers around 26%.
But, they say, there are hardly any public works contributing to the common good and higher productivity to show. Roads are in a terrible condition, the power situation is miserable. There is no public sanitation worth the name.