Manipur produces thousands of employable youths every year. However, getting a secure job in Manipur is tough and challenging for this educated population, more so because the state government can only recruit people against vacant positions.
With the absence of the private sector in any industries worth mentioning, the state government remains the main provider of employment to thousands of skilled and educated youth in the state.
The state government is handicapped in providing employment to all job seekers. Faced with the problem of building a great future, most of the youths today are forced to migrate to other parts of the country, seeking better job prospects and opportunities.
It is not surprising to find that highly talented and skilled youths from Manipur are getting hired in private sector enterprises in major cities across India.
And, a good number of youths who continue to stay in Manipur despite very little job prospects or even improvement in their livelihood have become the target of militant groups.
More than two dozen armed militant groups (rebel outfits) are active in Manipur. Without a job or useful engagement in their lives, the educated unemployed youth of Manipur often fall prey to the insurgency.
According to official reports, there are 7, 01,987 educated youth seeking employment in Manipur as of May 2014. A total of 3, 26,548 job seekers are live-registered by the end of March this year. A total of 4, 73,037, including 3, 35,764 males were removed from the live register due to non-renewal and over aged.
The population of Manipur, according to the 2011 census, is 27, 21,756. Of these, there are 2, 01,327 female population listed in the state employment exchange as of mid-2014. And, there are 2,643 total handicapped persons.
Political observers say that due to absence of industries and other private enterprises in Manipur, employment opportunities are limited in this remote north-eastern Indian state. These boys and girls have been struggling for jobs in government offices whereas the state machinery does not have either funds or autonomy to recruit such large numbers of educated youth.
It is alleged that every government job has a price tag. Those youths whose parents cannot afford huge amounts to be paid as bribes are disillusioned and many of them become susceptible to anti-national propaganda.
According to the perspective of the Indian Army, unemployment is one of the main reasons for the spurt in the separatist movement in Manipur. Many of the unemployed youths, however, had gone to other parts of the country, seeking better employment opportunities.
According to reports, there are large numbers of Manipuri boys and girls who have got job placements in many industrial and services sectors outside the state, in mainland India.
The unemployed youths lament that they are unable to even start small-scale industries in Manipur as basic amenities such as power supply is erratic, while there is the problem of water scarcity and infrastructure facilities like road connectivity are abysmal.
There are several problems in Manipur. One of the many problems facing the people in the state is bad roads. Most of the roads are in deplorable life threatening condition. “The road condition is so bad that even the blacktopping can be peeled off by bare hands,” a commuter said.
Transportation is the lifeline of trade and economy of a place but authorities concerned have failed to ensure good roads across the state. The lifeline is poorly maintained.
The distance between Guwahati in Assam to Manipur is less than 300 km, but the problem of transport between the two states persists. In a state like Karnataka, the distance between two districts is more than 500 km, but due to rail connectivity and better transport facilities, people do not face much problem.
Frequent bandh is another major problem. Bandh culture in Manipur is the worst among all states in Northeast India, though it has been reduced in the last few years to a certain extent. This ill-policy is one of the main reasons for the heavy loss to the economy of the state and its backwardness.
Lack of electricity severely hampers the ability to do business and get work done using modern facilities like the internet and using machines which heavily rely on huge power consumption.
There are a few footprints of Manipur on the Indian political landscape. Being a small underdeveloped state with less population sharing the border with Myanmar border, people hardly know where Manipur is.
Human Rights violation and implementation of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958) is also a major issue hampering the growth of Manipur.
Manipur’s Irom Sharmila has been one of its staunchest opponents, going on a hunger strike in November 2000 and continuing her vigil till August 2016.
What triggered her was an incident in the town of Malom in Manipur, where ten people waiting at a bus stop were killed. What is AFSPA and where is it in force?
Poverty and lack of education is another additional issue. It's hard to find quality books in Manipur and classes are not held regularly due to bandh.
Also, it's hard to start a business with little capital; these make things much closer to impossible to make it profitable. Manipur is heavily dependent on agriculture, Central government funds and Assistance.
Unemployment, especially amongst the educated youth of Manipur, is a problem both for the individual as well as society around that person. It psychologically, financially, emotionally and materially affects the youths and their families. It brings in a sense of dejection, inferiority and hopelessness among the youth.
Amid the lack of job opportunities, the Manipur government is committed to create a startup eco-system in the state by providing the right resources and the platform. It can make Manipur one of the top start-up destinations in the Northeast, by providing the most enabling ecosystems to support and nurture start-up entrepreneurship in the state.
The economy of Manipur is characterised by a high rate of unemployment and poverty, low capital formation, inadequate infrastructural facilities, geographical isolation, communication bottlenecks and practically no industrialisation.
The youths in Manipur are finding out different ways to become self-reliant and generate means of livelihood. For instance, the Kanglei Economic Development Organisation (KEDO) started by a group of unemployed youth of Thoubal district has ushered in a ray of hope for many youth in the area by helping them engage in a variety of jobs.
Set up in 2007 by a few unemployed youth in Thoubal district, KEDO has around 100-120 volunteers engaged in various jobs in and around Imphal.
The group has taken up a project on vegetable farming at Irang Ahum Fangba at Lilong Arapti with an aim to provide fresh vegetables to the public as well as enable its volunteers to enhance their income. They grow different seasonal vegetables like ladies finger, lime, banana and cucumber.
KEDO president Soibam Maniton said the organisation was started with an aim to generate employment in Manipur. It must be noted that all KEDO members are well-educated and skilled people, but they could not get a decent job in the state. So, the young members came together and set up the organisation under the motto of "to work for identity" in order to employ themselves and to bring more development in Manipur's economy.
The KEDO volunteers supply vegetables at Ima Market in Imphal. The members are also involved in transporting goods and selling a variety of local products like tea, juice, corn, and ice cream in the market. The members manage to earn anywhere between Rs 4,000 to Rs 20,000 per month per head.
Wahengbam Rajen, a KEDO member, had joined the organisation to earn a living as he could not get employment elsewhere despite acquiring a good educational qualification.
There are many people in Manipur, who are working in KEDO and earning their livelihood instead of whiling away their time.
After having tried their luck in getting a job, frustrated youth either get addicted to drugs or join the ranks of militant outfits. Some other youths depend on their parents for everything, including daily pocket money as they spend time without doing anything productive.
With the state government unable to intervene positively, the youths are left in the lurch. They become easy prey to anti-social and anti-national elements.
In the absence of a responsible civil society, the time is ripe for the Central government to create a favourable climate for engaging youth of Manipur for a brighter future.
The Central government along with the state must invest in social welfare projects like building medical infrastructure, schools and water supply lines, among others, that can rope in thousands of local youths for gainful employment.
Unless the government steps in with huge investment in public infrastructure, the private sector would not invest in setting up industries that are necessary for improving the employment scenario.
Agriculture has a significant share in the state's domestic product and provides employment to about 52.2 per cent of the total workers in the state.
There are altogether 98,051 handicraft units in Manipur providing employment to 3, 79,998 artisans.
The Manipur Sericulture Project was initiated by the Central government with the assistance of the Japanese Government particularly to provide employment to women.
Traditional sectors like handicrafts, handlooms, bamboo, food processing and forestry offer a lucrative source of livelihood through gainful employment throughout the year.
(The views expressed are personal)