Elections ahead, J&K offers 70,000 jobs for youth in next 60 days

24 April 2008
The Indian Express
Muzamil Jaleel

Srinagar: With Assembly elections set to be held later this year, the Jammu and Kashmir government has fast-tracked a job recruitment drive which aims to provide employment to 70,000 youths in the “next two months”. So far, around 21,000 vacancies, excluding Grade IV posts, have been referred to the Service Selection Recruitment Board (SSRB) which has already advertised for 6,299 jobs. These include the posts of teachers, lab assistants, librarians, dental assistants, multi-purpose health workers, junior assistants, laboratory assistants, X-ray assistants and village level workers. “The youths are a priority for the government,” said Basharat Dhar, Secretary of the General Administration Department. “This entire process will be conducted through the SSRB, which has already been strengthened,” he added. The recruitment will be conducted at the district level to ensure that every area of the state is taken into account. “We will provide jobs to 70,000 unemployed youths in the next two months through fast-track recruitment,” said Hakeem Mohammad Yasin, Transport Minister and chairman of the People’s Democratic Front (PDF). “The credit will certainly go to the coalition.” Although he emphasised that this was not a political move, both the Congress and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are already trying to extract political mileage. “For the last two years, the government has not filled any vacancies. We have decided that these vacancies should be advertised collectively and filled immediately through a fast-track mechanism,” said PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, adding that this was a collective effort of the coalition government. But senior Congress leader and Health Minister Mangat Ram Sharma said “It is a Congress initiative and the credit goes to Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad... This idea has been there for a long time, but has now become a reality due to his initiative.” Pradesh Congress Committee chief spokesman Muzaffar Parray said the job drive was a part of the party’s manifesto. “We had promised to provide government jobs to the unemployed youth, and it is now finally taking shape,” he said. At present, the state has 4.10 lakh employees, which include around 60,000 working for various public sector undertakings. The total salary bill adds up to a whopping Rs 5,700 crore, which accounts for 30 per cent of the annual budget. Sources in the Finance Ministry said the new recruitments would put an additional Rs 800 crore burden on the state exchequer. So far, the employment policy of the state government has been extremely short-sighted. Earlier, the government recruited 33,000 Rehbar-e-Taleem or teaching assistants, who are paid a paltry Rs 1,500 per month with a promise that they will be regularised as teachers after five years. Then there are 7,000 education volunteers who also work as teachers and get Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 per month. The government has also recruited 3,000 Rehber-e-Zirat (assistants in agriculture department) who get Rs 1,500 per month. However, Mehbooba blamed the practice of contractual employment on the previous government. “Our government was unable to recruit anyone on a permanent basis. Farooq Abdullah had signed an MoU with the then NDA government on job freeze. We had no option but to recruit them on contract,” she said. “That has been withdrawn now,” she added.