Chinese engineer at Hambantota port in Sri lanka
 engineer looks over the excavation process at the construction sire, ReutersREUTERS/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

With thousands of jobs being wiped out amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Jammu and Kashmir government,  in a rather surprising move, has abolished a 17-year-old scheme which will leave at least 15000 engineers jobless across the J&K UT. 

On Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir government abolished the 'Self Help Group of Engineers Scheme' (SHGES) with immediate effect which was the sole bread and butter for the unemployed Engineers of the UT. 

Practice of reserving projects for SHG Engineers abolished: J&K Govt

According to the order issued by the General Administration Department regarding the merger of the engineering wings of 15 departments and organisations, Commissioner Secretary to the government, Manoj Kumar Dwivedi, directed that the "practice of reserving a proportion of projects for Self Help Groups of Engineers is abolished forthwith".

The Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir under Lt Governor Manoj Sinha vide order No. 752-JK(GAD) of 2020, dated 10-08-2020 decided to abolish quota of the Self Help Groups of unemployed engineers in J&K UT besides merger of various engineering wings in the Public Works Department/ Jal Shakti with effect from December 1st, 2020.

This move comes six months after the Labour and Employment  Department said that it was modifying the scheme guidelines in order to make them more "progressive" so as to enable SHGs to take up projects of bigger quantum.

What is the SHG Scheme?

The 'Self Help Group of Engineers Scheme' (SHGES) was launched by the J&K government in 2003 wherein 30 per cent of the total works in government departments, corporations and autonomous bodies were earmarked for SHGs of unemployed engineers as an alternative to government jobs. Engineers worked in various departments like R&B, PMGSY, PHE, PDD, REW etc will lose their job.

Not just that, according to the J&K admin has decided to subsume engineering wings of various departments into the Public Works Department (PWD)

'Anti-youth decision': Abolishment of SHG Scheme sparks protests 

Indian Army
Indian security personnel stands guard in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir.Reuters

This decision did not go down well with the youth of J&K UT as they called it an anti-youth decision. From protests across Srinagar to reactions from political leaders, the agitation is likely to spread in Jammu in the upcoming day.

According to local reports, a top official in the department told that the decision to abolish the SHGES had been "unilaterally" taken by the government without even consulting the concerned department which administers the scheme.

In fact, we have been going district to district highlighting the significance of the scheme as it provides an alternative to government jobs. The abolition of the scheme has been done by the higher-ups in the government and it is very unfortunate," an official in the L&E Department said.

Move will create mess, confusion on the ground: Political leaders react

Altaf Bukhari
Former State Finance Minister and senior leader to quit Mehbooba Mufti's PDP following several other leadersFacebook/Altaf Bukhari

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) Vice President and former MLC G N Monga expressed concerns over the decision, he said, "The amalgamation of all the engineering wings in the PWD will create too much confusion and many issues related to seniority, pay disparity, and other employee welfare measures would crop up subsequently."

Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) President, Altaf Bukhari also opposed the J&K government decision to subsume engineering wings of various departments into Public Works Department saying the move will create too much of mess and confusion on the ground.