Thursday, November 13, 2014

Northeast India: Breaking Stereotypes, Generating Self Employment

The new millennium has ushered new avenues for employment generation throughout the world. Our nation too is making progress towards eradicating unemployment and ensuring income generation avenues for all. During the period July 2013 to July 2014, the employment generation rate of India was more than 20 per cent. This was almost double of what was in 2012-13. New jobs are being created and a new entrepreneurial class is coming up in the nation. Today, we do not see parents pushing their children only for studying engineering or medical as means of future employment potential. A career in sports, music, media and other mediums are slowly being recognized by the people. This is indeed a good sign.

However, Unemployment still is a major problem here in Northeast India. Lack of access to quality education coupled with lack of avenues for employment has been the major reasons for unemployment in the region. This has forced many to look towards the few available avenues for employment. For example, during the last few years, with large number of recruitments made by the education department through the Teacher’s Eligibility Test (TET), a large number of unemployed youths are appearing for the test. But the question here is that are the youths taking up the test because of their interest in teaching profession or because they need a job. It is a safe guess that it is the latter. And this has been proved by the fact that many of the teachers appointed in schools in interior areas do not regularly take the classes or go to the schools. The ultimate sufferers are the students.

One can understand that this is because the youths are unable to find meaningful employment and neither the state governments nor the Union government has been able to create enough avenues for employment. As such there is the need for promoting self employment amongst the youths of the region, for which Northeast India has numerous avenues. There are also various jobs and courses which are relevant in this region. Some of these are discussed below. I have given greater emphasis on agriculture as majority of the population in Northeast India live in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture and allied activities. Also, I have omitted some obvious avenues like information technology and media.

  • Agricultural Research can be taken up in areas such as evolving suitable agro-techniques for greater yield, developing an integrated pest and nutrient management system, developing appropriate soil and water management techniques, etc. There are a number of institutes in Northeast where these researches can be carried out like Assam Agricultural University, Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI), Assam, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Research Complex, Meghalaya, Central Agricultural University (CAU), Manipur, etc.
  • The Self Help Group (SHG) movement is yet to take proper shape in Northeast India. Except for Assam, the other northeastern states have not witnesses enough penetration of this movement. The rural youths needs to take advantage of the support being given by the government to the SHGs. This is a great avenue for self employment. The North East Rural Livelihood Project (NERLP), undertaken by the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DONER) with assistance from World Bank, has the capability of changing the rural unemployment scenario. Beginning in March 2012, the project has seen formation of over 4000 Self Help Groups (SHGs) and skill training to over 1500 youths. The rural youths need to make themselves aware of the same.
  • Agriculture is still the primary source of employment for majority of the rural population. But, traditional methods of cultivation need to be replaced by modern, scientific methods and use of modern tools like power tillers needs to be increased.
  • Youths can take up cultivation of high-yielding varieties of crops and also certain high yielding methods of cultivation like the SRI (System of Rice Intensification) method. There are various institutes like Rashtriya Gramin Vikash Nidhi (RGVN) who provides training for this. Cultivation of cash crops like jute, sugarcane, maize, horticultural crops can also be thought of. Nowadays, there are various agencies which give out loan for agricultural purposes, so finance should not be a problem.
  • Cultivators in flood-prone areas need to take up early sowing of short-duration paddy like Boro rice variety- Joymoti, Jyotiprasad and Kanaklata, developed by Assam Agricultural University. These varieties mature 30-40 days before the traditional varieties of paddy and also gives a greater yield. Also, deep water crops like Bao paddy may be also be used. These flood-resistant crops have naturally elongated stems to keep the foliage above water.
  • Sericulture, handloom and handicrafts are another field which has a bright future and produce made from these sectors can make their presence beyond the national boundaries.
  • Retail sector will have maximum employment generation capability in the coming years in the Northeast. So retail management will not be a made choice among the youths of the region.
  • Specialized courses, which have relevance to the Northeast, can be taken by the youths. Some such courses are: polymer sciences, environmental engineering and sciences, geology and petrology, hydrology and physical sciences, bio technology, plantation regeneration / management, Tea Research, etc. As only few institutes provide such courses, colleges and universities in the Northeast too should take their own initiative in introducing these courses.
  • Tourism is another sector which has immense potential. Theme-based tourism packages, tie-up with locals and letting them create locally flavoured travel packages, developing packages based on a travel circuit, and various other innovative ideas can be thought of. 
  • Foreign trade is another avenue which is very less taken up here. Traders here do not take this due to lack of knowledge about the nuances of foreign trade. But this also has immense potential in Northeast India, if one chooses to go for it.
In this article, I have mentioned a few things which I have come across articles, websites and during discussion with various persons. This is not an exhaustive list and I would request readers to add to this list.

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