Rangarajan III

Rangarajan committee has submitted its report on employment generation in J&K. Will the recommendations see implementation or will it meet the same fate as that of the two earlier reports of the economist on J&K. A Kashmir Life report.

Dr C Rangarajan presented the report on employment generation in J&K.

(Dr C Rangarajan presented the report on employment generation in J&K)

C Rangarajan is one of the few names that Kashmiris usually look up to, thanks to the public discourse that is evolving over alleged economic exploits of the state. One of India’s most renowned economists who has led RBI and advised the Prime Minister on economic issues, Dr Rangarajan has remained associated with Kashmir for the past many years.

In 2005 Dr Manmohan Singh appointed him as head of an 11-member task force to frame a long-term plan for integrated social and economic development of J&K.

He submitted his report in December 2006. He was in the middle of his assignment when in May 2006 he was tasked to head one of the five Working Groups that the Prime Minister invited Round Table Conference on J&K had set up. He submitted its report in April 2007. As the two are awaiting implementation, he is again in news for crafting the ‘job plan’ on Prime Minister’s recommendations.

Set up on August 18, 2010 as the summer unrest was gradually losing its sting, Rangarajan-led panel submitted its report – with only a three month delay – and involves a staggered expenditure of Rs 2517 crore in five years, once its implementation starts. The plan envisages making more than one lakh youth employable by upgrading their skill sets. It has identified the sectors where additional investment can generate more jobs besides upgrading the skills in different sectors.

The investment will be made in three areas. Around Rs 531 crore will go to the capacity building in key sectors, Rs 786 crore would go to skill development and trainings and the whopping Rs 1200 crore would be spent on scholarships to 25000 students in next five years enabling them to study in Indian mainland to address the crucial issue of mass alienation.

Assessing the magnitude of the mess, the panel seems to be satisfied with the state government figure that it has registered unemployment (March 2010) of 588532. Using the data of the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), the panel believes that 31.27 lakh people in J&K are self-employed, 7.08 lakh are salaried and 4.29 lakh are casual labourers. In long term, it says the economic growth will throw up large scale opportunities but in short term the “the security environment makes it difficult to attract large scale private investment into the state.”

Rangarajan panel’s sectoral initiatives cover agriculture, handicrafts, horticulture, animal husbandry, tourism and industry. It has suggested an increase of Rs 40 crore a year for five years in the allocations under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), a scheme that the state can tailor to suit its requirements in agriculture. J&K has substantial food grain deficit, almost 70 percent in oil seeds and pulses and nearly one third in vegetables. But the panel regretted that the state has been unable to spend – it booked only 51 percent of its expenditure in agricultural schemes in 2009-10 – the funds that are routinely available to it – Rs 200 crore in 2010-11.

A one-time investment of Rs 20 crore has been suggested for installing hatcheries and allied infrastructure in 10 districts to increase the capacity of one day chicks from existing five lakh (does J&K have this capacity!) to 12 lakh. It has suggested spending Rs 14 crore for covering the bovine population of the state within two years through 1500 veterinary centres and another Rs 12 crore in sheep husbandry to increase mutton production.

The panel found it imperative to create infrastructure for tissue culture and import plant material to improve the plant stock and increase public nurseries for replanting orchards. It suggested Rs 12 crore for that. Additional Rs 60 crore were recommended for creating the post-harvest requirements, Rs 14 crore for food processing initiatives and Rs 30 crore for converting through PPP mode three fruit mandis (wholesale markets) into IT-enabled model market places.

Rangarajan has revived the debate of drafting a policy to address “land related concerns” so that it paves way for private investment in the tourism sector in PPP mode. The panel has suggested a Rs 15 crore grant for three years for advertising. In handicrafts sector, the panel suggests Rs 10 crore investment in setting up smaller carpet production centres for artisans, Rs three crore for developing cluster of Gabba, Numda and Crewal besides a two crore rupees grant for brand building.

Apart from recommending Rs 10 crore for four years for PM’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), the panel has strongly advocated purchasing the local manufacture by the central government agencies including security forces with a price preference. It also wants National Small Scale Industries Corporation (NSIC) to extend its facilities to J&K. Under existing policy, there are 358 items for exclusive purchase from SSI sector.

On IT, which continues to be J&K’s elusive sunrise sector, the committee has advocated adopting a ‘quick win’ strategy under which J&K should have a SWAN (State Wide Area Network) network. Apart from suggesting the private parties to be ISP at district levels, it seeks extending internet exchange link to move to Srinagar from Chandigarh where the cable termination station is located so that J&K gets “robust bandwidth access” of at least 50 Gbps.

Crafting Skill, Empowerment and Employment Scheme for J&K (SEE) is the major policy initiative. To be implemented by Ministry of Rural Development, SEE is an altered version of SGSY. It is aimed at getting the 50,000 to 100,000 youth upgraded from unorganized to the organized labour market besides generating self employment within three to five years. The project costing Rs 257 crore will be a joint baby of Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The latter will fund the balance amount which MoRD can not fund beyond the norms fixed under SGSY.

It has identified a number of companies from India Inc. which will partner with various educational institutions in J&K and run special programmes to enhance employability for 8000 students a year for next five years. Companies and MHA will fund the Rs 1000 crore project in five years at 50:50 basis. Companies which have evinced interest in the plan include Infosys Technologies, TATA Consultancy Services, Godrej & Boyce, BILT, Crompton Greaves, Avanthe Group, Bajaj Auto, WWFI, JCB India, Tata Motors, Tata Global Beverages and Apollo Hospitals.

The panel has suggested engaging 1000 rural youth in artificial insemination and veterinary first aid, and equipping them with requirements from kits, phones to motorbikes and funding them for five years at a cost of five crore rupees.

It is the idea of running a special scholarship scheme (SSS) – a merit cum means scholarship – to help the youth study in institutions outside J&K that makes the report distinct. “On the one hand the scholarship would enable the youth to optimize their full academic potential and turn to productive activities, while on the other hand they would give the J&K youth an opportunity to interact with their counterparts from the rest of the country,” the report says. “This would address the feeling of alienation, create bonds and allow the beneficiaries to join the mainstream and become a part of India’s growth story.”

There will be 5000 scholarships available in a year – 4500 in general degree courses, and 250 each for engineering and medical studies. The students would get Rs 30,000 for general category courses, Rs 125 thousand for engineering and Rs 300 thousand for medical studies plus hostel fee and other incidents worth one lakh rupees a year. “The success of SSS depends on the ability of the students from J&K to get admission in identified institutions,” the report says, adding some exams are tough for which the students require coaching. “…State government may actively incentivise coaching centres from the rest of the country to establish branches in the state,” it recommends.

Salman Khursheed has told the group that DPS chain and 150 other schools can set aside berths for the students coming from J&K. The group has suggested J&K to go for faculty enhancement programmes run by Infosys Development Centres.

The report has made the government happy. “The biggest two problems that my government faces are the challenges of maintaining a harmonious security environment both through militancy and law and order point of view and second problem is of unemployment and unemployability,” chief minister Omar Abdullah told the SKICC gathering where the report was made public. “While the first is not the direct consequence of the second, it is true that the first feeds on the result of problem of unemployment and unemployability because frustration among the youth is a ready handle to be misused.” A pleased Chief Minister offered Ranagarajan the state plane so that he reached in time and addresses a news conference in Delhi. Before that even he hoped publicly that let this report be implemented unlike the two Rangarajan penned in the past.

But everybody in J&K is asking why Rangarajan-III has all of a sudden become more important than Rangarajan-I and Rangarajan-II? Its answer probably had come before the questions raked up. Prime Minister Dr Manmohanj Singh told the Lok Sabha last week that the government would be providing up to one lakh jobs to Kashmiri youth and once its (Rangarajan report’s) implementation starts the “mindset” of Kashmiri people will change. So the Rangarajan-III is directed at the mindset and not the economy of J&K!!

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