What they need is jobs; what they get is promisestext_fields
Manoj, a 23-year-old guy who is studying at a polytechnic college in Uttarakhand's Barkot city, and the only issue which is of utmost importance to him, is unemployment.
"I want that companies should come for placement in our college and give us a decent package. But with the rising unemployment fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic, it still feels like a far-fetched dream," he says.
His other friends and classmates also agree as they are quite worried about getting jobs since they have seen students who were senior to them still sitting idle and looking for a place to work at.
The issue of unemployment raised by Manoj and his friends is something that all youngsters of Uttarakhand want the political parties to address. In a recent survey released by the National Statistical Office (NSO), it was found that nearly one-third of youth in Uttarakhand is unemployed.
In the periodic labour force survey released for the September-December 2020 quarter by NSO, it was found that nearly 27% of people between the age group of 15-29 are unemployed and this is higher than the national average of 25%.
Not only this it was also found that around 35% of women are unemployed as compared to 25% of men, revealing a gender disparity in the unemployment statistics.
Another major issue has been the lack of vacancies in the government jobs in Uttarakhand. Siddharth, who lives in Jaspur, a small town in Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttarakhand has been preparing to get in Uttarakhand police force but he is upset as there are no vacancies.
"I have been preparing for the government exams for a long time but there are almost no vacancies. Life in hilly areas is already difficult and in case of no jobs our problems are only increasing," he says.
In such a scenario, the young students residing in hilly areas are forced to migrate in order to get some employment opportunities. Although the government has been trying to stop the exodus of people from hilly areas, their efforts haven't resulted in any fruitful results yet.
On November 24, when the state cabinet meeting was held, a slew of schemes was announced to boost employment and stop migration from hilly areas. The cabinet approved a mega industrial policy-2021, to remain in effect till 2025 in order to boost investment in the state.
While launching the scheme, agriculture minister and government spokesperson, Subodh Uniyal said "industries are willing to make investments worth Rs. 7850 crores in the state and it can help 17,000 youth find jobs."
However, youngsters still think that this is another ploy by the government as they know elections are coming up and they have failed to provide employment.
Aman, who stays in Uttarkashi believes that despite huge promises by the political parties they haven't been able to provide employment in the last five years and it looks like they aren't concerned about the youth of the state.
Even young women are worried about their future as lack of quality education and lack of support from their families isn't allowing them to study and make better life choices.
"Neither we have good schools or colleges which can provide quality education, nor we have employment opportunities," says Poonam, a young voter who stays in Uttarkashi.
She further added that after the coronavirus pandemic when everything shifted to virtual mode even mobile connectivity became a major issue since many hilly areas don't have a proper internet connection.
For Mansi also who stays in Uttarkashi, proper education facilities and employment opportunities are the issues that the newly elected government should focus on immediately.
"Although we have internet connectivity now in the absence of employment opportunities and lack of quality education, what are we supposed to do," she says.
She is also of the opinion that lack of proper guidance and almost negligible presence of the private sector in the hilly areas are the major reasons behind rising unemployment in the state.
She further added that in the absence of quality jobs, the girls are either forced to do household chores or are helping out their families in farming which isn't improving their lives.
Another major issue that has resulted in an increase in unemployment is the downfall of the tourism industry because of the coronavirus pandemic. Uttarakhand which is famous for its holy sites like Haridwar, Rishikesh, and the Char Dham yatra has seen a downfall in the pilgrims visiting the state.
Manish, who has been running a small homestay in Harshil valley, near Gangotri says that the number of tourists has almost decreased by 50% in the last two years.
"Earlier there were 7 people working at my hotel and I was able to pay them well. Now, there are only 3 people working and sometimes it becomes difficult to even pay them," he says.
However, he is hopeful that with the construction of the all-weather Char Dham road and the recent changes in the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Homestay Yojana, tourism will see a boost in the coming days.
Recently the BJP government in Uttarakhand increased the subsidy from 33% or a maximum of 10 Lakhs to 50% or a maximum of 15 Lakhs. People who want to lease land and open their own homestays will be covered under this scheme.
However, whether this will increase employment in the state or will it turn out another election gimmick is something that only time will tell.