The J&K government's new recruitment drive for unemployed youths has had the youth up in arms. Reason - the salary offered puts an engineer, designer or an architect on par with a roadside painter.
Worse, for at least five years, a civil engineer will get half the money the government pays a peon or a driver. This flies even in the face of the labour department regulations.
The government will pay an assistant civil engineer a monthly stipend of Rs. 6790 for the first two years and Rs. 10,000 for the next three. For a labourer in the unorganised sector, the labour department has set a minimum monthly wage of Rs. 6750.
But pointing out that setting of government salaries is not the responsibility of the labour department, its deputy secretary Shahnawaz Bukhari said if the government pays a professional as much as labourer, "it is sheer injustice".
Economic advisor to the government Jaleel Ahmad Khan defends the policy. "A government employee and a labourer are not comparable. The former has a job security, and will get all the benefits," Khan said.
There is a reason for the government's parsimony. It finds it hard to pay its employees. The salaries add up to Rs. 14,000 crore while the government's income is Rs. 6,500 crore, which is why chief minister Omar Abdullah had been advocating self employment before the drive for 80,000 jobs was announced in January.
"The government wants to share the resources, howsoever little, with as many people as possible," Khan said.
But the explanations have failed to mollify the state's 600,000 educated unemployed youths.
A mechanical engineer said the state was "institutionalising exploitation". Arshid Bhat, a 27-year-old post-graduate, said the policy was bound to "promote corruption".