Sheikh Sameer

India is going through the phase of demographic dividend. The working-age population of India has surpassed the non-working-age population. Most of the states and union territories, including Jammu & Kashmir, have a greater percentage of youths as compared to the non-working age population. As per the comprehensive study by Mercy Corps, a US-based development agency, Kashmir has a ‘Youth Bulge’. Demographic dividend i.e. higher percentage of working age population is considered a good factor for economic development. Though almost every state of India has a higher percentage of youth population, similar policies cannot give similar results in each of them. The situation in Kashmir, especially, is unique. As a historical legacy, Kashmir is a conflict zone for more than half a century now. Being at border, the union territory is already affected by armed insurgencies. The youth population of Kashmir, thus, need a greater support and hand-holding from the government to be empowered enough to stand tall against any form of terrorism targeting the integrity of our nation.
Youth empowerment, if we go by definition, is the process of encouraging youths to take charge of their lives. Only a strong and independent population can make a strong nation. Youth empowerment is even more important in a place like Jammu & Kashmir to save the youths from being misguided. There had been instances of youths being radicalized and taking to violence and terrorism. But, notable government initiatives for youth empowerment have proved that youth empowerment is the most effective weapon against radicalization and terrorism.

One of the best ways to channelize youthful energy in a positive direction is to promote sports. It does not only help youths to stay fit but also teaches them important life lessons like cooperation, team spirit, and sportsmanship. Further, sports is almost an untapped field for India. We have a huge number of youths waiting to be trained appropriately. The geographical location of Jammu & Kashmir makes it an ideal playground for winter games in which India has a negligible position at the international level. Government initiatives like ‘khelo India’ seem to be working well in the direction.
The familial structure in India expects youths to take up responsibilities of family. This catalyzes the will to earn not only for self but for the family as well. Youths, thus, need job opportunities or a supportive environment for taking entrepreneurial risks. The government of India is trying its best to enhance varied opportunities for youths of Jammu & Kashmir so that they can take up gainful employment in the field of their choice and expertise. Free Hu
Vocational training and higher education are other ways to empower the youths. These are the ways of making an investment to enhance the quality of youths as human capital for the country. A well-trained and highly educated youth can not only get better-paying opportunities but can also contribute to the development of society and the country as a whole. Government of India has signed several MoUs with different institutions for the purpose. When the youths are empowered to think for themselves and lead a dignified life, they are less likely to be misguided by any external force. Radicalizing and terror-supporting forces working continuously in Jammu & Kashmir can never succeed if the youths are empowered enough. Empowerment of youths will lead not only to development and prosperity in the union territory but also to a peaceful environment. Bringing more youths of Jammu and Kashmir to the mainstream will definitely result in enhanced social, political, and economic stability of the country.

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