Imphal: Unemployment in Manipur continues to rise, causing out-migration of the youth and reinforcing conditions for corruption in recruitment for government jobs.
The registered unemployed in the state, whose literacy rate at 79.85 per cent is higher than the national average of 74.04 per cent, was 7,49,935 by the end of February this year.
That number could easily be viewed as alarming considering that Manipur has a population of 27,21,756 only, according to the 2011 census.
"It is not possible on the part of any government to provide jobs to all the educated youths," Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said recently.
The educated unemployed would see that statement as reflecting a cavalier attitude - not only because government jobs are available only to a few people, but also because the state has been failing to provide conditions for self-employment.
For one, there is not enough power supply to run even small scale businesses and industry.
Tayai Athokpam, for instance, had started a small workshop here, but was soon forced to fold up his business due to frequent power outages.
Manufacturing in Manipur has been rendered uncompetitive also because of the cost of raw materials.
A lot of inputs have to be brought from Dimapur in Nagaland along the 245 km long mountain highway paying huge transportation charges. There are several levies, of varying degrees of legality, along the way.
Businessmen, traders, entrepreneurs and others are expected to pay illegal 'taxes' regularly to Manipur's various armed groups. As a result, the prices of the finished goods go up.
Modhusudon Keisham had started a factory to manufacture mattresses, cushions and rubber sandals.
"After investing a huge amount, mostly taken as loan from a government agency, the business had to be closed down," he told IANS. He could not compete with the outside companies that could sell their products much cheaper.
Other entrepreneurs have had similar experience.
Most people believe that the recruitment for government jobs is steeped in corruption. Test results for hiring police and paramilitary personnel are withheld for years and many candidates miss the bus since their age crosses the limit in the meantime.
In almost every significant government recruitment, there are allegations of illegal gratification.
Under the circumstances, thousands of youth in Manipur have been leaving the state, looking for opportunities elsewhere.
Hospitals across the country, for instance, already have a considerable number of Manipuri nurses.
"They are efficient, sincere, hard working and well disciplined," said a human resource manager of a private hospital in New Delhi.
A large number of Manipuri young men and women work in the private corporate sector, including multinational companies, in various states in general and the National Capital Region (NCR) in particular.
The increasing brain drain has not helped the socio-economic conditions prevailing in the state, but there is nothing on the horizon to counter this trend.
India's security establishment views high unemployment in Manipur as an important factor in the proliferation of armed groups in the state whose number is about 50.
"In fact, considering the large number of educated unemployed, militancy is fast emerging as an alternate, and a lucrative, means of employment," wrote Sushil Kumar Sharma, deputy inspector general of police of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the northeast region, in a "policy brief" published in February.