Hand-holding? More Like Arm Twisting

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Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at a rally in the state.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi at a rally in the state.

A cursory look at Omar Abdullah’s five year tenure shows that far from holding hands there’s a wide gulf between his government and the youth

ANURADHA BHASIN JAMWAL

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]MAR Abdullah’s life size hoarding flanking one bank of river Tawi in the winter capital that became a point of controversy for the BJP during the recent visit of Narendra Modi, states, “My hand-holding of youth is above political motives.” Controversial or not, politically motivated or not, this hand-holding really is incomplete without adding that it is also above ground realities.

A cursory look at Omar Abdullah’s five year tenure amply demonstrates that far from holding hands there is a wide gulf between his government and the youth. Interestingly, this hoarding put up at one end of the Tawi bridge has no magical power to narrow this unbridgeable gap.

Omar Abdullah began his tenure towards the fag end of 2008 with the promise of massive employment drive and addressing the youth unrest. Eventually, his government’s actions have only ended up spiralling that unrest, on questions of employment, development and political aspirations.

Whether it is despite his rhetoric or inspired by his government’s provocations, the youth in Kashmir today are increasingly taking charge of the resistance movement – from street protests to innovatively creative protests. His hand holding of youth didn’t even appear like a flimsy mirage when 120 teenagers and youth were killed in street protests in the summer of 2010.

Two months after the summer agitation started, his chopper ride for a photo-op with the injured youth battling for life in the hospital was a manifestation of how wide the distance had grown. His statements in berating the youth taking to street protests against gross human rights abuse as ‘paid agents’ also demonstrated the disconnect.

To define his pro-active moves in following up the action of spree of killings with random crackdowns, raids and arrests of young men and boys including minors as ‘hand-holding’ of youth is not even amusing.

His government coined the word ‘Facebook terror’ to clamp down on not just the street protesters but also those sitting in their homes and giving vent to their anger on social networking sites.

The process continues with Omar Abdullah, far from holding the hand he loves to publicize, pushing them into a bigger hell hole with all the arm twisting that goes on.

The criminalization of youth protests has never been so worse as under this present government with not only ‘azadi-seekers’ getting to bear the brunt of brutal police action but also those seeking jobs, water, power and other basic issues, sparing not even the physically challenged people.

If his hand-holding refers to employment and youth empowerment schemes, the much touted Sher-i-Kashmir Employment and Youth Welfare Project is almost a non-starter and not based on the ground situation of the impossibility of creating posts within the government sector to challenge the mammoth unemployment.

So is it about the much touted Himayat and Udaan schemes, which with all their flaws and shortsighted stupidities, go more to the credit of the central government.

These centrally sponsored schemes aim to empower the youth including women by providing them skills to work with corporate companies for a limited period.

The corporate giants are known for their business acumen and it would be difficult to presume that any of their activity could stem from sheer benevolence, even if it is meant to oblige the central government. They’ll always seek their pound of flesh.

Udaan and Himayat schemes, touting to provide employment to thousands of youth from this state, via the corporate world, paid handsomely by the government to train every youth, offer little promise of any economic betterment of the state.

All that these schemes are designed to do is to offer some jobs to some individuals in their reputed companies outside the state and improve the lives of a few individuals, and in that process rob the state of even its vital human resource and leave it more impoverished than ever with further brain drain.

And, the cryptic greed of the corporate world gets satiated with both the money that is being offered directly to them for training the youth and the cheap human resource that would be available at their disposal.

Last year, Omar Abdullah gloated over the achievement of bringing Rahul Gandhi armed with a plane load of who’s who of the corporate world, giants from Tata and Birla to Bajaj, who promised internships, campus placements and a centre for innovation to generate jobs for youth. But what is it that anybody had to offer to keep the youth rooted in an economically sustainable environment?

Unfortunately, the chief minister has no idea that such employment ventures ultimately amount to corporatization of both the state’s economy and politics. He could only have held the hand of the youth better if he had a reasonable grasp over the ground realities and had some knowledge of economic development of sustainability, which can’t be possible with high profiled schemes.

All it needs is humble assessment of the resources of the state, its rich potential in horticulture, agriculture, agro-based industry, sheep husbandry, wool industry, minerals and other industry, so that smaller schemes can be devised for economic development that would ensure redressal of the unemployment issue as well. That indeed would be hand holding. Not arm twisting as is the bitter truth.

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