Despite investments, why has unemployment soared in Jammu and Kashmir?

Hassan has forgotten how many jobs he has applied for in the last four years. He completed a masters in computer applications in 2018 but has been unable to find a well-paying job in Kashmir.

“I have applied for so many government vacancies that I have lost count,” said 28-year-old Hassan, who lives in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.

Since the private sector is almost negligible in Kashmir, the government is the main source of jobs in the organised sector. Still, Hassan tried his luck at a few private software companies in the Valley. That hit a dead end in August 2019, when Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of statehood as well as autonomy and split into two Union Territories. An internet shutdown that lasted months was imposed on the Valley, bringing all businesses that depended on connectivity to a halt.

When the shutdown was lifted, there were other challenges. The August 2019 legislations had dissolved protections under Article 35A, which reserved government jobs for long-time residents of Jammu and Kashmir, among other things. “I am hopeless,” said Hassan. “Now, since outsiders are eligible for jobs here, the prospects have dwindled further.”

The unending job search has taken a toll on his mental health. After four years, he is now considering the prospect of moving out of Jammu and Kashmir to look for employment. Both Hassan and his family are uneasy with the idea. “What other options do I have?” he asked.

The Centre justified the August 2019 measures saying they would bring greater prosperity and economic development to the region. In his first public meeting in Jammu on April 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claimed investment in the private sector, which had stagnated earlier, was now reaching Rs 38,000 crore. Things were looking up for the youth in Jammu and Kashmir, he promised.

Unemployment figures tell a different story. Surge in unemployment Hassan is among Jammu and Kashmir’s surging unemployed workforce. Monthly data published by the thinktank, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, showed that in March, unemployment in Jammu and Kashmir had touched 25%