I have been unemployed since August 10th last year. The reason for this unemployment wasn't Covid pandemic, nor was I a terrorist or “anti-national” element. I wasn't working for the government as an employee too and I wasn't on the rolls of J&K Government. I along with 19999 others were benefactors of a scheme run by the J & K government.
The Self Help Group of Engineers Scheme was launched in the year 2003 for the Self Employment of the unemployed engineers, as a substitute to Government jobs for organising them into groups and allotting them construction works by various departments/agencies of the State Government. The first meeting in this regard was held on 06-08-2003 under the chairmanship of the then Hon’ble Chief Minister Mr Mufti Mohammad Sayeed where the Administrative heads of various departments participated.
Under the Guidelines, the Scheme was applicable to unemployed engineers of J&K State possessing a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering / Technology / Architecture in any branch of Engineering or three years Diploma in any branch of Engineering. The unemployed engineers were required to organise themselves into Self Help Groups of 4 to 10 members. The Self Help Group were asked to approach the concerned District Employment and Counseling Centre for issuance of the registration card or its revalidation. 30 percent of the total work of the Government Departments/ Corporations/Autonomous Bodies were earmarked for the Self Help Groups. A SHG was entitled to execute construction work contracts/ supply contracts of civil/ mechanical and electric/electronic nature.
The Banks particularly J&K Bank were directed to lend loans upto 50 per cent of the cost of the work allotted to a Self Help Group against the work allotment letter. The implementation of the Scheme was regularly monitored at the District, Divisional and State Levels by the respective Monitoring Committees.
This scheme was a landmark scheme in uplifting the unemployed youth of J&K and providing them gainful employment. The scheme was a success as the government was getting the works executed through technocrats in a professional manner. Government had nothing to lose as a huge section of youth was getting employed without any burden on its finances.
An order 752 -JK GAD Dated 10-08-2020 through which sanction was accorded to merging/ Subsuming of engineering departments was envisaged, a single line no less than an atomic bomb for almost 20000 families was included in the order which read as:
"The practice of reserving a proportion of projects for self help group of engineers is abolished forthwith".
For me and thousands like I, this was no less than a tragedy. My colleagues would set up WhatsApp video conference calls to console each other. We protested, we raised slogans to no avail.
I was the sole bread earner for my family since my father had expired. After completing my Engineering studies from Punjab, I had joined this scheme immediately to support my family as the real estate sector in India was struggling at that time. Now, I stand desolate with nowhere to go and no aid in sight.
I went from pillar to post, knocking all doors. I was infantilised, almost lied to at every door I knocked for my rights. By the end of my quest, brow beaten and defeated, I realised that in "Naya Kashmir" only a select few in power had access to justice and not commoners like I.
PM Modi had famously said that he would bridge the gap between “Dilli ki Doori as well as Dil Ki Doori" but this step has only alienated us.
Shahid Ul Islam Wani
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