May Day, Mayday!

1st of May has been celebrated as a springtime festival since 13th century and later on from 1880 it also was celebrated as labor day, to give due recognition to the working people. Here in Kashmir we are not sure whether to celebrate it or not, we haven’t seen much of spring yet nor are we known for giving due reorganization to people for their work.
Since ages Kashmir has been very famous for its handicrafts, woodwork, paper-machie , silk, Saffron etc., but recently all these arts are dying a silent death. The taste of people has changed, the architecture has changed, priorities have changed and in the middle of all this change our culture is vanishing. The craftsmen have tried and are trying to survive this wave of change but the question is how much have the successive governments helped to promote these crafts. To summarize all the help that these skilful people have received nothing more should be required to be said then that these people are making every effort to make sure that their sons and daughters do not get into their father’s & grandfather’s trade. Recently a genius of a craftsman, the creator of “The Lonely Tree”, Khazir Mohammad Qasba, died but none noticed. With death of the masters, the death of art itself will follow and with it another part of our rich culture is destined to die a silent and lonely death.
In Kashmir the thinking minds and the able bodies are being exploited in open day light and nothing is being done about it. Well what can one do when the Government who is supposed to be the protector of week is actually facilitating this exploitation.  Government took the saying “something is better than nothing” a bit too seriously and the young generation is bearing the brunt. Teachers, agriculture graduates, forestry graduates etc (many a times even PhD’s) are being hired by government on temporary basis on remuneration of fifteen hundred rupees per month, yep you read it right just Rs 1500/-. This has acted as a blessing for the private players (NGO’s, Private companies etc) in the state, now they have made this remuneration amount as a benchmark. Teachers in private schools are being paid around Rs 3,000/- per month but the amount that these schools show to their benefactors and Government authorities (from whom they receive grants & Donations) is not less than Rs 10,000/- (as salary per teacher). It is an open secret not hidden from any one, but still no action is being taken against the perpetrators. The Labor Department who are supposed to take action against these violators of law is a just namesake department. Just outside the office of Labor Commissioner, Batamalo ,we can observe child labor; children are working in the mechanic shops, they are working as conductors / helpers in public transport vehicles. When the labor department is so blind to something in front of their eyes then how can we expect them to check whether “Shops & Establishments Act” or “Contract Labor Act” or “Remuneration Act” etc are being implemented and adhered to or not.
The government never lets an opportunity go begging when  it comes to claiming accolades (even for someone else’s work) but when it comes to punishing the corrupt, well a probe is setup and nothing more is done. This has had a very bad effect on the whole setup. Nothing moves forward unless you grease some palms. Now a day’s even the Jobs are on sale and there is a proper rate list. All this is being done unofficially but governments is even through its official policies promoting only certain class of people (elitist). The government is not providing equal opportunity to everyone to compete in competitive exams or in government jobs. The government uses High application fee for competitive exams and for applying in the government jobs as a deterrent. To describe the situation in a better way let me give a comparative example of fee structure for different posts and exams recently advertised by J&K PSC and UPSC:
Recruiting Agency
Fee (RS)
Asst. Provident Fund Commissioner
Court Manager
IFS (exam stretched over 10 days)
Asst. Surgeon (Veterinary)
Now you can yourself see and compare the exaggerated charges that that J&K PSC is charging from the candidates (who do not have a source of income). It is a general concept among the youth of J&K that whenever the government doesn’t have funds to pay salary of it employees it advertises couple of posts and then forget about these post just to be remembered in time when most of those who had applied have become over-aged, then the process is repeated over again. An intelligent plan for a continuous source of income one can say.
Now coming back to the question whether to celebrate May Day or not, I think you all will agree that we here in Kashmir have nothing to celebrate. We can only cry Mayday hoping that someone will hear us, is anyone listening!

Kashmir’s Human Resources in Disarray!

A recent survey has revealed that Jammu and Kashmir has the highest rate of unemployment among the northern states of India. Unemployment in itself is a big monstrous problem but J&K, especially Kashmir is fighting against a bigger monster (violence and turmoil). More than often the state machinery portrays the first monster as the mother of the second monster, making it more important to tackle unemployment more seriously and in a proper way.

For any State which considers unemployment as its greatest nemesis the first step towards taking it head on would be setting up of an efficient and highly active Human Resource department. Well the state of Jammu & Kashmir has setup Human Resources Management units (HRM units)in five Govt. departments (Health and Medical Education, Power Development, Public Works, School Education, PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control) rather than a central department. The main aim with which these units have been formed is to exclusively look after seniority, promotion, vigilance cases etc in these departments. Well I would say it is an ill aimed move in the right direction and thus a waste of a very important resource. A well designed HR tool can take care of the seniority list or promotions list, these should had been add on activities of these units rather than exclusive. A better use of this resource would be made by employing them to fine tune the HR Policies of these departments, all the ruckus that arises in different departments regarding hiring or promotions is due to wrong or unclear HR policies, it would help in nipping bud at the base altogether . Recent report in an English daily (Greater Kashmir, published from Kashmir & Jammu) has revealed that as many as 18817 posts are vacant in 18 Govt department. Well this revelation puts a big question mark on Recruitment Agencies and makes the establishment of a central HR department altogether more important. The central HR department can decide and design HR policies for all the departments, do all the HR related work and at the time of hiring they should decide requisites of any job, based on ob analysis (eg qualification, experience etc required) and then forward it to recruitment agency for hiring (PSC or SSRB). This will result in better clarity, better coordination and better accountability (no blame game).

The second step would be to have a proper recruitment policy (in other words, hiring policy, which becomes first step of HR dept.). By recruitment policy I mean a proper well defined rules, who should be hired for what, which should be backed by logic & reason and should not be based on whimsical thinking or should not be twisted and turned for the benefit of near & dear ones. One can find umpteen number examples where the existing policy (in J&K) was twisted to give undue advantage to certain people. And at other times due to lack of clarity wrong people were (are) hired. It is said that the hardest part of job of a HR professional is to find an appropriate person for a job and hiring him. Well in J&K we seem to ignore the importance of this very basic fist step. It can happen only in Kashmir that for a post of labor officer candidate having a degree other than MBA-HR (one who has studied Labor welfare & law)is given preference or where for teaching a management subject the corporate experience is given no importance Or where a student from Barkatullah University (localy known as BOPO) or Dehradun is given preference over a student from Kashmir University or Jammia Millia or Jammia Hamdard or Aligarh Muslim University etc ! More recently the J&K public service commission advertised for the post of Court Manager and MBA set as the required qualification. But again due to lack of clarity problems seem to arise, the PSC authorities are very reluctant in accepting applications from candidates who have PGDM (Post Graduate Diploma in Management) which is approved by the AICTE ( All India Council for Technical Education) . MBA degree can only be awarded by a University and PGDM is awarded by autonomous education institutes, even the IIM’s don’t award MBA they too award PGDM! This needs to be addressed immediately.

Let us try to understand the recruitment procedure (mostly followed by SSRB, Universities, Colleges, Schools and other Private Companies in J&K) for any post in any department in J&K; be it Govt, non-Govt, Permanent or contractual. The first step of the recruiting agency is to advertise for the post, in the notification itself it is mentioned that the selections will be on the basis of merit and then details the distribution of Marks for different aspects are listed as such:

Degree Marks
Phd 5
M.Phil 3
B.Ed 15
Masters 10
Interview 20

Now when the response in form of applications come in overwhelming numbers, the recruitment agency has to come out with a short list (merit list) as to who have qualified for interview. Now it seems to be a good policy, but what we don’t pay attention to is how this short listing is done. For short listing they take in to consideration the percentage of the qualifying degree, with out taking into consideration from which ( college or university) the degree has been earned from . Well we all are well aware and understand that all education institutions can’t stand on the same pedestal in terms of their student selection process or education imparted there after. So now I ask you is short listing on basis of only percentage (when students of Prist etc have marks %age well above 80 even 90, while students from reputed college only lay between 70-80 ) a good way of gauging talent. Now let me put it this way, can a student who competed on all India level to get admission in a certain college be held equal to a student from PTU (Punjab technical University) or PRIST or any other such institute, wouldn’t it account to being unjust. I am not saying that students from PTU etc are not good enough, what I am trying to convey is don’t mix cream with rest because after wards if you try to search for cream it would be same as searching for a needle in heap of hay. The process directly reflects in the quality of the employees that are being hired by different department, these are same people who are entrusted to serve the public in general, Teach our kids in schools & Colleges, sit in chairs of high responsibility and decide what is good for us and what not. Now taking into consideration the far reaching effects that a wrong person can have on the society at large, who would you want the responsibility to be bestowed on?

A better way to deal with this problem is by clubbing different college or universities into groups (Tiers) (A,B,C,D). Then at the time of short listing or selection process giving preference to the students from upper most tiers. Now you would say that the process of forming this list (Tiers) is time consuming and needs discretion as to which college should be included into which tier. To all those people who have this question in mind would like to tell them, well somebody else has already done this hard work for us we just need to compile. NAAC & AICTE (many other private bodies) give recognition and ratings to colleges and universities. We can make use any one of them or a mixture, but the thing that needs to be kept our mind is what ever we choose should be able to satisfy our needs, if not completely then most of our needs. Later on when the Human Resource Department of our state is competent and efficient enough we can make our own list. Where ever need for screening test is felt & is feasible, it can be included in the whole process.

This will increase the quality of the new hires drastically thus slowly having an affect on the over all working of the whole Govt. and Non-Govt. apparatus. This will make the whole procedure more just and transparent. To make this system more effective it needs to be communicated in a very robust way to all the stake holders. And hopefully we will see less litigation after any selected candidate list is released, thus time and resources will be saved. The bright minds will stop cursing themselves for working hard and getting admissions in good colleges and Universities. I am not claiming that this is the Solution of all that is wrong but over all this can be the first step towards the adoption & implementation of the world renowned Human Resource Policies in J&K.

This Article also appeared in “The Kashmir Monitor”