Brigadier (Retired) Manjit Singh
As the State of Jammu and Kashmir attempts to put the shadow of terrorism behind it and move on the path of progressive democracy there are many hands coming forward to assist it. One among these is the Indian Army that has seen the turmoil that violence created in the lives of the people and their courageous effort to fight off the malaise and reopen a new chapter in their lives. The Army has been forthcoming spontaneously and unilaterally in providing help in whatever manner possible. One among its many efforts is the low profile but very effective development initiative named “Sadbhavana”.
Sadbhavana was initiated, as early as the year 1991, to overcome the hardships being faced by the people due to lacuna’s in administrative efficacy caused by the menace of terrorism. The intention was to offer a friendly helping hand to the people in terms of civic and social infrastructure that they were being deprived of due to no fault of theirs. Reconstructing the image of the security forces in the mind of the common man from the ogres that they had been painted into to the positive performers and friends that they actually are was, no doubt, an additional goal.
Today when terrorism is controlled to a large extent and the State government has taken over the mantle of development with generous aid from the centre, the region is faced with a huge problem of unemployment. There are over six lakh youth registered with various employment exchanges in the State. Chronic unemployment and under-employment has spawned problems for the state’s fragile peace and impacted the pace of development. With a rising population and less job prospects, too many young people are idle and this means trouble for the state.
What is being missed out is that the Kashmiri youth have got the whole India available for exploiting their talents but they harbour reservations in doing so. With the right skills under their belt they could and should give wings to their dreams throughout the country.
The Indian Army that holds the pulse of popular sentiment has been quick to realise the need and has added a novel initiative to Sadbhavana in the form of Youth Guidance Nodes (YGN).
The YGN provides a platform to maximise awareness of the unemployed youth on the plethora of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities available in various fields. Information imparted by the nodes enables them to make correct choice choices with regard to their careers. Further assistance is provided to develop the ability to successfully attain their goals. The idea of YGN is to empower youth through the medium of career opportunities. The YGN achieves this by providing facilities for knowledge sharing, theory-building, guidance and regular counselling.
In terms of career guidance, all the aspirants are exposed to various job opportunities in the State/Central Government and the private sector. Students are also guided with respect to various opportunities available for perusing higher studies based on their qualifications. They are motivated to go for a career depending on their choices and capabilities. Regular lectures are conducted by trained Army personnel about the prospective career fields like medical, engineering, banking, civil services, tourism, hotel management, IAS, KPS etc. Coaching classes are conducted separately for candidates aspiring to join the armed forces in the ranks as also the officer cadre. A booklet containing various job opportunities is placed in the YGN centres to help the participants with ready to use data.
Regular coaching is conducted for students appearing in competitive exams. Information is given about employment exchange in the state, their duties and the procedure for online registration and other relevant aspects. Lectures are also conducted in schools to assist in the crucial choice of subjects in class XI and XII standard. Under-graduate courses and diploma certificate courses available in the environment, job opportunities after 12th and graduation are explained to the students.
Recruitment in the Army is given special emphasis. Detailed information about education qualification for enrolment at different levels and different ranks, physical standards and procedure of enrolment, medical check up, location of recruiting offices in the state and their duties, facilities and welfare measures provided in the Army after enrolment are explained.
Preparation assistance provided to the prospective candidates includes provision of schedule for the exams/employment, assistance in procuring the form from the relevant place/institute, guidance in filling up the forms and ensuring their timely dispatch. After the forms have been dispatched, the intervening period is utilised for regular coaching and preparation for the exams. As part of the preparatory effort, the members are made to undergo mock tests under exams conditions so as to assess their readiness; for this question banks and other material is available with the YGN.
Seeing the overwhelming response of the YGN, mobile YGN based on vehicles have been established with the aim of increasing the reach and guiding youth who are from far flung areas. These mobile YGNs are sent to remote areas and schools where other means of providing such information are not available. They distribute study material, pamphlets, blank application forms and all other things required for career planning. The objective is to spread awareness amongst youth living in remote and far flung areas.
This noble initiative by the Indian army is a resounding success as is seen by rapid growth in registration by youth in YGN/mobile YGN centres. The wholehearted effort by Army units towards guiding and counselling the youth has paid dividends as many of them have been able to qualify competitive exams and seek employment. Such constructive engagement of youth is a great leap forward. It is a small but significant step towards building a better future of the young people and thus towards nation building; kudos to the Indian army for coming up with this novel and splendid initiative that will reap excellent long term results.