Empowering Kashmir: ONGC's Initiatives in Skill Development and Drug De-Addiction

Although they are not in the driver's seat, young people drive change. Young people everywhere took the most hit from violent extremism. The worldwide community has faced an increase in child recruitment and exploitation by violent extremist and terrorist groups over the past few years. Baramulla Town's citizens feel abandoned and forgotten because there haven't been any local development initiatives in recent years towards the youth. 

REACHA: The Beginning

In order to empower and assist young people in securing a living, the Indian Army, ONGC CSR, and the non-profit Research and Extension Association for Conservation Horticulture and Agroforestry (REACHA) joined together to launch the Chinar Club program in 2016. According to the Societies Registration Act of 1860, REACHA is a registered voluntary organization. Youth are involved in REACHA's programs for skill development, sports, cultural events, and other activities in partnership with the Indian Army. 

Since the youth were given an effective way to channel their energies, the REACHA cooperation with the Indian Army has had a transformative effect on suppressing anti-national militant activity in Baramulla.

In the Kashmir Valley, the Indian Army has played a significant role in advocating for and managing a number of development efforts. Operation Sadhbhavana, a well-organized and regulated undertaking, is the vehicle through which these efforts are being made evident.

In order to wean the local population of the Kashmir Valley away from terrorism, drug menace, and anti-national activities, a variety of programs are being run under the banner of Sadhbhavana. These programs are focused on education, skill development, health care, environment conservation, infrastructure development, and sporting events.

By establishing a skill development center in the form of the Chinar 9 Jawan Club in the Baramulla District, the Army has launched a special initiative as part of Operation Sadbhavana to engage Valley youth constructively and prevent them from becoming involved in the deadly cycle of drug use, stone-pelting, and anti-national activity. Youth can interact, unwind, and revitalize at the Club while also honing their abilities for holistic growth in a stress-free setting.

REACHA Partnership with the Indian Army

A platform for young people in Baramulla has been provided by the Indian Army in partnership with REACHA since April 2016 in the form of the Chinar 9 Jawan Club, where students from various socioeconomic backgrounds can benefit from job-oriented and entrepreneurship training in order to support their aspirational needs through the medium of skill development in a number of identified fields, such as basic computer and information technology.

Since 2016, more than 1,000 kids have received training at the Chinar 9 Jawan Club in Baramulla, with 60–70% of them finding employment or improving their quality of life after the training.

Since July 2019, the Center administered by REACHA on the Army campus has offered basic-level drug de-addiction services to roughly 1200 young people. The youth are then inspired to enroll in several training programs at Chinar 9 Jawan Club based on their skills and goals.

ONGC’s Initiatives

REACHA's collaboration with the Indian Army in Baramulla, Kashmir, has received backing from ONGC. Training programs for skill development and drug addiction recovery are now under process. The Chinar 9 Jawan Club, Baramulla is the name of the training facility. 

The army came up with the idea for the Club in order to "constructively engage" with the valley's youth and help them peacefully transition away from militancy, drug abuse, and other anti-national activities so they can make important contributions to the country's development.

The collaboration between ONGC, the Indian Army, and REACHA got underway in 2016 when ONGC funded 60 girls for two 6-month-long classes in fashion designing, cutting, and sewing. ASSOCHAM has accredited this course. More than 60% of the 240 young women who have completed this course to date are now working to improve their means of subsistence. 

Since 2017–18, 150 children have received NSDC certification and training in the trades of retail and hospitality per year, for a total of 900 individuals. Despite many obstacles, 50–60% of placements/lifestyle enhancements have been made in this situation as well.

Impact of ONGC’s REACHA

The project has gained a lot of attention, and during COVID-19 lockdowns, the young musicians have given calming, melodic music urging the community to preserve social distance and other COVID-19 combat criteria. The Project also strived to help 1200 Kashmiri youngsters, who are frequently the target of narcotics to lead them astray, since 2019–20. 

In Uri, REACHA constructed homes for locals whose homes had been destroyed by insurgent operations during 2017–18  with assistance from ONGC. This helped to heal the rift and bring the army and the nearby village communities closer to the Line of Control. 

Additionally, to supplement the current infrastructure and ensure improved services, Porta Cabins have been erected with ONGC help at Chinar 9 Jawan Club and Drug De-addiction Center. Since March or April 2020, when the government declared a statewide lockdown, ONGC projects have switched to an online mode using WhatsApp, GOTO-Meeting Apps, telephoning, etc., despite the fact that the internet in Kashmir is extremely slow due to security concerns. The army has praised the development, and it believes that this work in very trying times will significantly bolster our efforts to bring peace to the valley.

A number of young boys and girls trained at the Chinar Club have taken the initiative and established their own modest units at home in addition to the significant work placements secured, providing a sustainable livelihood for themselves. 

Challenges Faced

REACHA has faced difficulties putting these programs into action because Baramulla is a conflict area with a history of militant and anti-national activity. REACHA has developed creative solutions to carry on the project's work, though, in conjunction with the Indian Army and local staff.

Even after receiving training, the youth frequently do not want to leave the state. Those who were assigned to different regions of India were soon discovered to have quit their positions due to either an inability to adapt to their new surroundings or inadequate pay as a result of their lower educational backgrounds. 

Towards The Future

The Chinar Club, which was founded in Baramulla in 2016 and has trained scores of young people in the hospitality and retail industries, has also developed the skills of aspiring singers and entertainers through a variety of competitions. Since its founding in Baramulla, the Chinar Club has won two major prizes, demonstrating that its efforts have not been forgotten.

The club received its first honor in 2019, which was given in recognition of its extraordinary corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. The club's dedication to effective CSR programs was further emphasized by the second award, which it received in 2022.

Army attempts to combat militancy peacefully have received a great deal of support, encouragement, and high impact because of ONGC support to REACHA for the aforementioned programs. According to the Army, Baramulla is now considerably less likely to experience stone-throwing, terror attacks, and other anti-national acts because the majority of young people hope to advance their job chances at ONGC-supported ventures, mainstreaming themselves into the fabric of the country.


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