Hiring special police officers in Kashmir is a small solution to a big problem
The interest that the youth of Kashmir have shown to take up the job of special police officers (SPOs) only segments the huge unemployment problem in Jammu and Kashmir. Some of the young persons have post-graduate degrees, from notable places such as the Indira Gandhi National Open University at that. But the disheartening part of this is that about 10,000 people will get jobs in this recruitment drive while 650,000 people in the Valley alone are looking for employment. The problem has been made more acute by the unrest this year, which, according to a report in Hindustan Times, has created a loss of Rs 8,000 crore to the state’s trade and industry. And this is just in continuum with the floods two years ago, because of which, Assocham had estimated, the state’s economy took a hit of Rs 5,400-5,700 crore, with the maximum damage caused to trade, hotels, restaurants, horticulture and handicrafts.
Still this is a good effort by the state government and it should be able to calm down the street protests to some extent. But there are layers of problems inherent in this exercise. One is that the state government is screening those who had been part of the protesting groups. While one cannot deny that there are enough reasons to do so, one has also to take into account if this can stir up the youth. After all, for each young man getting the job, there are many who are not getting it. Besides, there is a precedent in this. When the Chhattisgarh police began recruiting SPOs as part of anti-Maoist operations in 2005, the hiring created a controversy because it was alleged that the state police was recruiting teenagers. Notable citizens such as former bureaucrat EAS Sarma challenged their hiring in the Supreme Court in May 2007 as being tantamount to the state arming civilians. The police in Chhattisgarh use young tribals as informants, and rely on them to negotiate little-known and remote forested terrain. Hence the Jammu and Kashmir government should follow all procedures in such matters because a public interest petition in court can lead to indefinite delay in hiring.
So everything considered, this is at best a palliative. Unemployment is just one of the state’s many other problems, which cannot be solved without the central government’s intervention. For that a peace process and a political dialogue, which PM Narendra Modi has stressed from time to time, are needed. It is for the political class to lay the foundation for it.