Alarming Disinterest

Alarming Disinterest
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That there is an obvious disinterest and disinclination to take up trades and crafts that traditionally used to be the preserve of natives in Kashmir is for all to see and axiomatic. The attrition of natives from these trades and crafts has been gradual but inexorable. The attendant vacuum has been filled by non locals who have been coming to Kashmir in the quest for jobs in droves since a while. Intrinsically and inherently, this disinterest is alarming and bad. The reasons are cultural, social and economic. First, consider the reasons for the attrition and lack of interest. A combination of social (or even cultural) and economic reasons collude to make native Kashmiris loath to take to trades and crafts. The broader society, for instance, looks down on vocations like plumbing, baking, hair dressing and so on making those who take up these as somehow “lower” in the social pecking order. This reason blends with economic reasons: wages in these sectors are low and it usually becomes untenable for a person to support his family on the meager income accruing from these. Most people then shy away from these professions. Besides the vacuum that is created here on account of these omissions, it also means the hollowing out of our social base plus a kind of “capital flight” from Kashmir. Outsourcing to non local labor also means a dependency. All in all, the problem is alarming and must be checked. The question is how? The answer is multipronged. First, social stigmas must be eliminated, to the extent possible, from these vocations. Second, wage levels should besides being commensurate with productivity need to be at par with other sectors, even if this may warrant financial support. Third, taking these vocations and professions, must be incentivized through education and public policy that aims at skill development of the natives in Kashmir. In this day and age, it is not mere knowledge that is useful but applied knowledge and skills. The basic skills of natives in areas as varied as plumbing, electric technicians, carpentry, and so on must be upgraded to make the practitioners more productive and more efficient. A skill deficit society will suffer on many fronts and accounts, if this problem and issue is not addressed. It is therefore about time to gird up and gear up to the challenge and make skilled work the default and natural option for many, if not most natives.

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