Unemployment has turned out to be a big problem in this small hill state over decades. But this people’s issue is not a serious concern for political parties in any election in Himachal Pradesh.
The 2019 Lok Sabha polls are no different, with neither the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nor the Opposition Congress touching on the worsening unemployment scenario in Himachal.
The two main political parties do blame each other for the swelling number of unemployed youth in the state, with the Congress questioning the Modi government for not having fulfilled its poll promise of giving 2 crore jobs every year. However, when it is their turn, they fail to deliver on this account.
Official records say the number of unemployed youths registered in different employment exchanges in HP is roughly over eight lakh. This also includes a good number of underemployed persons, who have got jobs, which don’t match their qualifications.
The state boasts of a lot of progress in the education sector with the opening of thousands of schools, more than 120 colleges for higher education at the doorstep, three state universities in academic, agriculture, horticulture and forestry sectors, and a number of private universities offering vocational courses.
The employment opportunities in the state however do not match this. The typical mindset of Himachalis of not leaving their state for jobs is another hurdle, responsible for stagnation in employment.
However, lately professionals are looking for greener pastures outside, but the number is limited. Since Himachal is a rural state with hill terrain, including the tough tribal area, employment opportunities in the private sector are also too few and people mostly look to jobs in public sector, even if it is at a lower level compared to their qualification.
The farm sector in Himachal is no more the same with problems of production and marketing dissuading many a youth from traditional occupations. The apple economy of Himachal although it runs into over Rs 3000 crore is unable to hold back the younger generation for the tough work involved. They are increasingly leaving the orchards to be replaced by Nepali labour and are themselves keen on jobs.
There are over 2.5 lakh employees working in the state government or state owned boards and corporations in Himachal. Nearly, 20 per cent of families in Himachal are associated with armed forces or paramilitary forces. Over the years, with the state getting into a debt trap due to poor resource mobilisation, the government recruitments are not taken up in accordance with vacancies. While the staff crunch affects the functioning of government, a large number of highly qualified unemployed youth keep waiting and waiting for the posts, and in the process cross the age limit. Once they cross 45 years age limit fixed for government jobs in HP, they do whatever they find.
In this long wait, while there are thousands of applicants for a few vacancies, a large number of applicants possess qualifications as high as post graduate ad doctoral degrees applying for class III and class IV posts. (In such a situation, the hidden ‘political preferences’ also come into play). The state got an industrial package during the previous tenure of the NDA government early last decade, that brought a lot of industry to bordering districts of Solan, Una and Sirmaur.
Himachalis have failed to reap its benefits because of their own fault. Many youths from Himachal showed eagerness to join industry for low paid jobs, they lacked skill to match the work requirement, and others simply shunned that kind of work.
A politician said, “Even though the state government has kept the binding of 70 per cent jobs for Himachalis in industry set up in HP, the educated youth from Himachal did not take it as a good opportunity. I once sent more than 20 graduate youths for employment in a factory in Baddi. They left in a month, saying they would better do some other work.” He said this is one reason why people from outside outnumber Himachalis in industry in the state at all levels.
But taking advantage of psyche of youth, successive governments too resorted to recruitments through different channels, wherein employees with similar qualifications are given different salaries for the same job.
Realising the situation, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has, however, promised to stop this phenomenon. He too has been saying that the government cannot give jobs to everyone. “The educated youths should try for private employment as well or go for self-employment avenues, for which we have started many schemes,” he said.