Kohima, Apr 3 : Many Naga youths working outside the state are wary of returning, with opportunities scarce at home. And those still in Nagaland have often been reluctant to take up anything but government jobs.
A youth organisation has been making an effort to change that attitude in a state struggling with unemployment. YouthNet has since last year been running Nagaland Job Consultants, which provides training and internship to help youths find options beyond government jobs, including entrepreneurship. It also publishes YouthNet Opportunity Express, Nagaland's first employment paper.
"The kind of people we are helping are mostly graduates in their late 20s. They have been trying to get into government service for years but the competition is so stiff that they are finally looking for alternatives in the private sector," says Seyielezo Putsure, 32, who heads Nagaland Job Consultants.
"Youths are now willing to work in private offices, in customer service, as waiters and waitresses, as managers — things they would not have looked at before," he says.
Earlier this year, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said opportunities in government have reached saturation point. Putsure says, "Only 45 per cent of those registered with the employment exchange get a job, even after waiting for years."
"We have 65,000 registered at the employment exchange," chief secretary Alemtemshi Jamir says. "One of the main reasons is that the private sector does not come to the state. Apart from security issues, the tribal land policy can be prohibitive. The government is setting up zones such as Dimapur where these land laws can be relaxed."
Putsure was working in London as a "freelancing change consultant". "Before I graduated (from South Bank University), I came home and saw that private jobs and entrepreneurship are not encouraged at all," he says. "All parents want their children in government service."
YouthNet published in July 2010 a survey of 1,054 Naga youths working outside the state. Among various findings, one was that only 11.08 per cent wanted to come back. "Most wanted to continue working outside the state but they didn't know for how long," says YouthNet founder director Hekani Jakhalu, a lawyer. "For many who answered yes, it was merely a temporary phase... they wanted to continue working outside for a couple of years and head back eventually."
S Tiasnup Ozokum, 26, of Dimapur works in Bangalore as a business accounts manager with Wipro. He has an MBA degree from Chandigarh. "There was campus recruitment and I got hired by Wipro.
There is no such campus recruitment in Nagaland. If I were still in Nagaland, I would never have got this opportunity,'' he says. He now has the opportunity to return. "My company has given me permission to be a consultant to the Nagaland government on behalf of Wipro."
Zhovinuo Thoure, 27, a graduate from Delhi Law College and working in the Supreme Court, feels Nagalnd has few prospects for private practice, but says, "This is the right time to shift back. The young are looking to become entrepreneurs."
YouthNet recently selected 13 entrepreneurs from 11 districts and provided them start-up grants. It conducts workshops in agriculture, food processing, and automobiles. Based in Kohima, it plans to launch the consultancy and the paper in Dimapur too.