SRINAGAR: Decades of conflict have not only resulted in innocent killings, disappearances and custodial deaths, but have also stalled the development of Kashmir Valley.
Where other industries in Kashmir are struggling for improvement, the Information Technology (IT) sector continues to remain missing from Kashmir.
This has not only added to the unemployment issues but has also forced thousands of Kashmiri youth to leave home for IT related jobs elsewhere.
“The absence of an IT industry is a major void in our society,” said Nazir Ahmad from the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He said the industry could not only augment the state economy, which is mostly supported by tourism, but would also generate employment.
Adeel Shah, 26, has come home after seven months. He left Kashmir to pursue his career in electronic engineering seven years ago.
“I never wanted to leave home,” says Shah, “ but since there is no IT sector in our Valley, I had to move to Banglore.”
Adeel is working as a software programmer in Cognizant IT solutions.
Thirty-two-year-old Mohammad Shafat added from New Delhi that he wishes to come back home but dearth of IT jobs is standing in his way.
“I have been living away from home for 10 years now. I want to live in Kashmir but that is not possible unless some IT park is established there.”
Shafat has done software engineering from Delhi.
Besides IT parks and industries, Kashmir lags behind in IT education as well. Kashmir Valley has only one government engineering college, the National Institute of Technology (NIT), and one private school, the Srinagar School of Management (SSM) College of Engineering and Technology.
SSM provides only diplomas in IT, while it is the NIT that offers degrees. Students who cannot be accommodated in NIT have to move out of the state or study abroad.
SSM principal Dr N.A. Shah said it is imperative to develop the IT industry to secure the future of Kashmiri youth. “Our intelligent and hardworking youth are suffering because we do not have proper IT education and IT industries here,” he said.
IT-inclined students leave Kashmir every year, he added.
Students studying civil engineering courses are well absorbed in various sectors in Kashmir but those from the IT field suffer.
The privilege of getting education outside Kashmir is also limited to students hailing from affluent families. Those from the lower-middle class and poor families have no option but to switch to other options.
Twenty-three-year-old Mudasir always wanted to be an engineer. But the absence of related education forced him to switch to Arts.
“I love handling electronic devices. I have been repairing them since my teenage years. But I could not pursue engineering as there is just one college for it.”
He says he still dreams of being an engineer.
“But I cannot afford going to Delhi or other place for my education. I have to continue with humanities as my subjects.”
Scores of students who wish to make their career in IT sector feel anxious about their future.
“I want to pursue my career in the IT field but my parents will not allow me to move out of the Valley. I am really confused,” said Areeba, a student of Class 12.
She says even if she gets admission at NIT Srinagar, she has no job avenues here.
The state government, on the other hand, has been trying to woo various MNC’s to establish their companies in Kashmir.
Kashmir’s Minister of Science and Technology, Aga Syed Ruhullah Mehdi blamed the conflict and disturbances in the Valley for the delay in the entry of IT companies.
“Disturbances are a major setback in this respect because multinational companies feel insecure in setting up their companies here,” Mehdi said.
He added that even as MNCs and other IT companies want to set up their offices here, “they feel insecure. They do not want to come to a place which is insecure and where work is affected.”
Some initiatives are being taken at the government level to set up the IT sector, Mehdi said, adding that land in the outskirts of the Valley had been earmarked for an IT park. “It will be funded by the government of India. We are pursuing the legal part and hope to work on it soon.”
He stated that the government intends to provide all possible incentives to various IT companies to motivate them to set up their offices and branches in the Valley.