It seems the Jammu and Kashmir government and officials do not take its chief minister's promises made to the people seriously. Since taking over the reins of the state in 2009, Omar Abdullah has been repeatedly goading the youth to turn to self-employment, but the ground reality is that those taking the initiative are being snubbed by government officials.
The fate of nearly 700 budding entrepreneurs of the Kashmir corroborates the suspicion. In 2009, these professionally educated youth started common services centers (CSC), locally called Khidmat Centers, across villages in the Valley as part of a union government project.
The scheme, considered to be the cornerstone of the national e-governance plan, was launched across the country to offer web-enabled services in rural areas.
While the scheme may have been a success in other parts of India, not a single service has been outsourced to these outlets three years down the line. The indolent attitude of the state government and its implementing agency, the J&K Bank, has left these young entrepreneurs bankrupt and debt ridden.
"The kiosks are ready. We have bought equipment, like computers and networking devices, after getting loan from the J&K Bank. We have also rented the mandatory space, for which we are incurring monthly rent. But the problem is that neither is the government sub-letting its online services to us, nor the bank," said Tanveer Haji, a resident of Kashmir's frontier district of Bandipora and a master of business administration (MBA) who left his job in Delhi to take this initiative.
"I was drawing a handsome salary in Delhi before deciding to take this initiative. But we are being pushed around by the government and the bank. The bank interest on the loans is piling up. Some among us have started selling personal properties to repay the loans," said Haji.
These centers were scheduled to offer facilities like providing government application forms, date of birth (DOB) and death certificates, utility payments such as electricity, telephone and water bills through village-level kiosks connected to the internet.
State's department of information technology is washing its hands off the problem. "Our work was to provide the infrastructure. We also short-listed around six government departments, including revenue, social welfare, and labour, to outsource their services to Khidmat centers. But we can't force the departments," said information technology minister Aga Ruhullah.
Spokesperson of the J&K Bank Sajaz Bazaz also dismissed outsourcing any of its major services. "Our work was to establish the units and provide loans; services have to be outsourced by the government, which has not been done as yet."