Project Sadbhavana: Indian Army and Khadi are changing lives of thousands of Kashmiri youth by generating employment opportunities in the state.
Project Sadbhavana: Two unlikely institutions have joined hands to help thousands of youths in insurgency hit Kashmir in securing livelihood, the attempt is aimed at weaning them away from militancy and violence and bring back in mainstream. Indian Army, which is trained to fight the enemy by using all kind of weapons, has joined hands with KVIC, an organisation that works in the field of promoting Khadi and village industries, to generate livelihood and employment opportunities for Kashmiri youth. Under the project Sadbhavana (Goodwill) Indian Army has been training thousands of young Kashmiris across the state.
A beneficiary of Indian Army’s capacity building initiative, Zahoor Ahmad Mir, a 25 year old youth from Kupwara district in Jammu & Kashmir, said unemployment is the biggest problem for Kashmiri youth that draws them towards militancy.
Zahoor is among 23 youths from the state who recently completed training in producing handmade papers in Jaipur, Rajasthan under a joint project of KVIC and Indian Army.
Zahoor has clearly cut out his future business plan. While talking about the business potential of handmade paper, Zahoor Ahmad says that he has already identified the potential buyers in the state and also the states from where he plans to source raw material.
“Cotton is important for producing handmade paper. Tamil Nadu has a strong base of cotton producers so I plan to source raw material from Tamil Nadu,” says Zahoor, who is planning to set up a unit for producing handmade papers in his district Kupwara.
Zahoor, who has a master’s degree in public administration and a diploma in disaster management hopes to become entrepreneur after receiving the training.
“It requires investment to the tune of Rs 20-30 lakhs but the potential is huge,” Zahoor told Financial Express Online from Jaipur where he was receiving training at Kumarappa National Handmade Paper Institute.
The joint venture between Indian Army and KVIC could be useful in Zahoor’s quest. Indian Army not only helps Kashmiri youth in acquiring training and business skills but its programmes and policies are also aimed at arranging soft loans for these volunteers.
“All our volunteers under various schemes are being registered under the Prime Minister Employment Guarantee Programme (PMEGP), to provide soft loans to the volunteers, so that they can set up their own business,” said Indian army in a statement sent to Financial Express Online.
“On the completion of the training full support is being provided to the volunteers in collaboration with KVIC, to help them set up their own Handmade Paper plants,” said the army.
Imparting skills for producing handmade paper is just one of the several initiatives taken by the KVIC in the state. KVIC is also building capacity of local artisans by providing training and equipments like electric powered potter wheels and honey bee boxes to support local cottage industries.
“We have recently distributed over 2,300 honey bee boxes in the state to promote bee keeping and this initiative has received tremendous response from the local people,” KVIC chief Vinai Kumar Saxena told Financial Express Online.
KVIC has trained 32 members from the local Kumhar community in use of electric powered potter wheels.
Indian Army and KVIC are also planning to send around a dozen local artisans for getting advance training in pottery making at Central Village Pottery Institute in Belagavi, Karnataka.
Indian Army has already trained more than thousand persons in Kupwara district under its Sadbhavana Project, covering Tangdhar, Keren, Machal, Lolab, Kalaruch, Trehgam, Karalpura, Kupwara and Drugmulla.
For decades, the country is fighting a bloody insurgency in the border state. Successive governments have blamed Pakistan for stoking violence and terrorism in the Himalayan state that has become the country’s biggest security challenge. While Indian security forces have killed more than 22,000 local and foreign militants in the state, they too have lost more than 5,000 Jawans. According to some estimates, more than 40,000 people have lost lives in three decade long bloody insurgency in the state.
Winning hearts and minds of Kashmiri people is crucial for the success of government’s strategy to contain militancy. Indian Army has completely overhauled its approach in the state to wean the youth away from militancy. The second largest standing army in the world has reoriented itself to help Kashmiri youth in securing livelihood that is expected to reduce the support for militancy.
The Army is also engaged in capacity building of local artisans as it considers lack of a stable employment a major factor behind unrest in the state and hopes to contain the problem by providing education, livelihood and security to ordinary Kashmiris.
“The reach and support structure of Army, combined with expertise and resources of KVIC, has the potential to be a game changer for the state of J&K and bring larger good to the society,” Indian Army said in the statement.