By Syed Asif Iqbal
Srinagar: As seven lakh and counting unemployed youth pose a serious challenge to the policy planners of Jammu and Kashmir government, experts say gem and jewellery sector if exploited can offer a solution of employability.
“Gem and jewellery industry has a tremendous employability potential”, said GM Zarger, exporter of gem stones from Kashmir.
Zarger, a specialist in Kashmir Sapphire, believes that encouraging and promoting entrepreneurship in the gem and jewellery sector can help in tackling unemployment problem to a larger extent in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Government has to think on those lines seriously,’ he said.
Zargar says that few youth he has counselled in past to take up entrepreneurship in gem and jewellery sector couldn’t, as they lacked technical knowhow.
“So imparting technical training to youth is more important. Gem and jewellery sector needs a serious focus so that its economic potential is realized to the full extent,” he said.
Asif Wani, a young aspiring entrepreneur from Baramulla, said that was a need to help the unemployed youth in venturing into gem and jewellery sector by helping them to develop necessary skills.
“Specific sectoral training programmes can be carved out for unemployed youth to get them into a particular job. In a skill deficit economy like ours, even an MBA type of qualification is a problem. For example, an MBA pass out opts for setting up a handicraft venture. He is fit to handle the unit but not the craft enterprise. So he lacks skill to run such type of enterprise successfully. Here an MBA with craft management would have made him fit to run the venture in handicrafts successfully,” he said.
Tasleema, a student of economics, said the need of the hour was to tailor any economic activity programme based on skill development of our youth to match the market needs. “Once our youth are skilled, we can reap the benefit of the resources available in the state and will ultimately solve the problem of unemployability,” she said.
Jammu and Kashmir has a unique place in the global gemstone resources base because of the top quality sapphire deposits in the Paddar area of Kishtwar. These deposits were first discovered in 1882 and since then large quantity of high quality Kashmir sapphires has been produced, for which the state became famous worldwide.
“Though, we have a very high quality of sapphire and some other semiprecious gemstone deposit, the gem stone based industries are yet to be developed in the state. Also the facilities for characterization of the gemstones are also not available in the state,” said Asif Wani.
Estimates say that if stocks at Padder are fully utilised, state can generate Rs 6000 to Rs 8000 crore revenue annually.
“If we are so rich in gem and jewellery, why can’t we have a jewellery cluster and set up gem and jewellery exchanges with facilities such as appraiser and testing laboratory for precious stones?” questions an expert.
“Why can’t we have a strong demand to declare the entire valley as a special economic zone (SEZ) for export promotion of these products?”