Rizwan Alam Khan
The history of Kashmir is intertwined with the history of the broader Indian sub-continent in South Asia with influences from the surrounding regions of Central and East Asia, and with these timely influences and interventions the people of J&K have always been at the receiving end; be it socially or politically. Whether it is the strategic importance of Kashmir or the treasures of natural resources that Kashmir has been bestowed with, the common people have always been in the grinding mill; after decades and centuries Jammu and Kashmir still awaits a manifesto that it deserves or put it right a manifesto that has been long overdue.
With technology at the peak and the world at our fingertips, we the people of Jammu and Kashmir still await a Strategic Sustainable Development (SSD) manifesto to ensure that change is visible on and off the ground.
Privatisation of primary education
A research paper was published back in 2019 with the utilization of seven indicators of education development for every district in J&K and by using the Principle Component Analysis it was observed that only 36.37% districts were educationally developed and 63.63% districts were educationally underdeveloped. Our revered President The Missile man of India Dr. APJ Abul Kalam rightly said ‘Creativity is the key to success in the future, and primary education is where teachers can bring creativity in children at that level.” Though we have much respect for this great man in our hearts yet we fail to implement his teachings and they have never taken a shape in practical approach when it comes to implementing things on ground and the Government Primary Schools in J&K are a prime example of the collective failure as a society in this century.
The schemes that were implemented with loads of money invested for revolutionising the educational reforms and implementing world class educational policies under different schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) etc., were only good on paper and no such impact was noticed even after decades. With the ongoing technology war that everyone is involved in (directly or indirectly) the primary education system in Kashmir is and has been on a ventilator and the attention it deserves is long overdue.
Fredrick Douglass says, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. Education, if imparted properly can not only help in building a strong economy but also help in eradicating various socio-political problems, provided, this education must be given from grass root level. It may please or displease but privatization of primary education is a must for our UT and someone needs to bell this cat before it gets too late.
Financial awareness in school cirriculum
In the 21st Century, education is inarguably the most important skill and tool to navigate through the ups and downs of life. However, when it comes to the real life challenges the most important and deciding factor becomes the “financial literacy”. An average student in India gets the exposure of the real time financial importance only when he leaves college which makes it very difficult for him to cope with, as this is a skill which must have been inculcated at a very early age. National surveys show that young adults have the lowest levels of financial literacy. This is reflected by their general inability to choose the right financial products and often a lack of interest in undertaking sound financial planning.
Personal finance education in middle school provides students with the knowledge and skills to effectively manage financial resources for a life of financial well-being. Financial literacy programmes are often targeted at adults, but it’s also important that children learn about money management at an early age. This will help them develop good financial habits, which they can carry with them throughout their lives.
The way we teach kids about money, matters a lot. They should learn the importance of saving, budgeting, and spending wisely from an early age. Providing personalized financial lessons to middle school students is one way to introduce financial education into their life. The earlier this process begins, greater is the impact that it can have.
Retirement age to 55 years
As per the statistics available online, the unemployment rate in J&K is around 20% which some people may or may not agree. J&K being a small UT in India with a population of one crore, even the rate of 20% is alarming.
With the current medical and physical challenges we are facing the ideal retirement age should be 55 years considering the working life expectancy. Even if we look at it from a moral perspective, the new generations of J&K deserve a chance to prove their mettle in different fields and the senior people have a moral obligation to pave a way for them selflessly to ensure stability and sustainability in the society. The notion of “Life without work has no meaning” needs to change and it is high time for it.
Global employment opportunities
Over the recent years the administration has done a marvellous job by attracting foreign investors from GCC, Europe and other parts of India which is a welcome step for the economic growth of the UT of J&K. However, there can be an addendum to it; employing our young and talented youth in the same countries under the banners of these big business houses who employ thousands of workers globally and it shouldn’t be a tough task as the government and the administration has a Memorandum of Understanding with them already. This will not only help making the UT economically strong but will also provide the right exposure to our youth when they will work and learn on an international platform. Eventually, when the time comes for them to return, they can generate employment here in Kashmir or help in one or the other way to enhance the chance that we all have been seeking over the decades.
Uninterrupted power supply using clean energy
As per the Energy Statistics India Report 2022, J&K has the second highest potential of harnessing renewable Solar Energy in India which accounts for over 1.11 lakh MW’s of solar energy. However, currently the UT is generating only 20.75 MWs of installed capacity of grid-interaction renewable solar energy. The goal to reduce the carbon footprint is realistic, considering the potential of solar energy and the applications in various sectors such as telecom towers, Solar Thermal Systems on government buildings and large establishments, use of photovoltaic systems in homes & offices which are recognized globally by renowned Green Building Councils for built environments such as USGBC, BREEAM, WELL, ESTIDAMA and more. This approach will not only reduce the carbon footprint but will massively help in energy conservation, reduction of electricity bills, retention of electricity during the harsh winters and much more.
Dialysis centers and ambulances under Masjid Committees
For any community or a society to thrive, the most important attribute is the ‘collective conscience’ and collective conscience is developed when people interact with each other irrespective of their ideologies, and community centres are a prime platform for engaging people into discussions related to social, personal and interpersonal issues.
In recent years the diseases related to urology in J&K have grown exponentially and most of the patients are undergoing dialysis procedures. The influx of the patients is so high that our current infrastructure is not able to cope up and with the result the patients are not able to receive the care they deserve. This is a high time when a policy needs to be put into force and availability of dialysis centres and ambulances for emergency cases must be made available under the direct control of Community Centres, local mosques, schools, colleges to ensure that the quality of treatment to the patient is not compromised.
Wages protection system (WPS)
WPS is an electronic salary transfer system that allows institutions or organisations to pay their workers through electronic transaction via banks, exchanges or financial institutions vetted by the approved authorities or relevant ministries. Considering the current scenario of the private institutions, whether it is a private limited company, LLPs in the UT of J&K, the wages protection system is not only non-applicable but practically non-existent. The employees of the private institutions are exploited in terms of intellectual property, labour rights whilst they aren’t even paid according to their worth or in some cases not paid at all. WPS is an organised platform which should be a prerequisite for any private institution during their incorporation with the Registrar of Companies (ROCs) to ensure that the employee rights are protected and they are paid according to their skills and potential and not be like bonded labourers.
Women rights in employment
With the International Women’s Day approaching in March and many organizations will be seen celebrating their women workforce globally, the scenario is still a bit different in this part of the world. The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, provides for equal remuneration of men and women workers for work of the same and similar nature. The statute also prohibits discrimination of women workers in recruitment, promotions, training and other employment conditions.
The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 entitles eligible women employees to up to twenty-six weeks of paid maternity leave, which makes it one of the most generous maternity benefit laws in the world. This legislation also allows twelve weeks of paid maternity leave to surrogate mothers and to women who adopt a child below three months of age. Additionally, women employees are eligible to paid leave in case of illness arising out of pregnancy or delivery, premature birth, miscarriage, and medical termination of pregnancy. Further, the statute includes protections for women on maternity leave from termination of employment and prejudicial changes to their conditions of employment.
Unfortunately, both these acts have been discussed thoroughly on paper but the ground reality is that there are “n” number of organizations who not only discriminate women on the basis of monetary benefits but even put them on unpaid maternity leaves, recommendations for resignations and what not which is against the Labour Laws and basic rights of an employee. In recent years, companies in India have been increasingly taking steps towards building policies that go beyond what is prescribed under the law however, in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, the state of affairs in this regard is far beyond reality.
Rizwan Alam Khan is a Project Management Consultant, views expressed are personal.