‘Our Degrees Hold No Value’: Jobless PG Students at SKUAST Kashmir on Indefinite Strike

Several postgraduate and PhD students from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST), Srinagar, spent Monday night sleeping on mats outside the university gate.

For the last two days, they have been staging a sit-in protest against the university for not holding recruitment for horticulture and agriculture engineering students. Their degrees, students say, are not held valid when they apply for government jobs in Kashmir and elsewhere. Students are asking the university administration to discontinue the degree and help them secure jobs.

“As per the recent central government recommendation, the agricultural production department of Jammu and Kashmir is proposing an overall departmental reorganisation… In this case, the association of agricultural engineers J&K humbly requests the administration/department to include the agricultural engineering graduates in the said reorganisation,” said a statement released by the association of agricultural engineers.

In reaction, the university has deployed heavy security forces at the gate. The administration has yet to respond to the students’ concerns.

Students sleeping on mats. Photo: Special arrangement

The university, since 2006, hasn’t done anything to help students get jobs after graduation. According to the association’s statement, no recruitment has been made till date and up until now, over 300 students have graduated from the college. Furthermore, students have alleged that the university has not properly communicated their concerns with state governments, despite the fact that in 2017, state governments had “decided to engage agricultural engineers in the agricultural production department”, adds the statement.

“When we apply for government jobs, recruiters question the authenticity of our degrees. The four-year B.Tech degree in agricultural sciences has absolutely no value outside the walls of the university gate,” said a student, on the condition of anonymity. Hence, the government posts where these students are eligible to apply for go to civil engineering students in most cases.

Every year, state governments across India release over 200-300 vacancies for the post of assistant agriculture officer. Unlike Kashmir, students say, states like Punjab, Rajasthan and Assam have been focusing a lot on promoting agriculture engineers and graduates in horticulture which, in turn, has also benefited the state’s economy. Presently, Assam is the second largest tea-producer in the world.

Also read: SKUAST-Kashmir: BTech Students Oppose University’s Decision to Conduct Offline Exams

Similarly in Punjab, students say, colleges that provide higher education in agriculture engineering and horticulture generate their own revenue by encouraging students to develop machines to increase crop production. Such colleges have their own land which they use to train the graduates, help farmers and in turn sustain themselves financially.

SKUAST PG students protesting in the university premises. Photo: special arrangement.

However, there aren’t any such provisions for agriculture engineering or horticulture graduates in SKUAST. According to students, they have the skills but there is no support from the university – which has been pushing some students to explore other job options.

“In my bachelors, I had developed a machine to rear walnuts and potatoes. My friend from another batch came up with a tool to easily break the walnut shell. If we could make such machines back then, we could have done even more in our post-graduation. We can work on cost-effective tractors, we can work on increasing fuel efficiency, but in the absence of work opportunities, one tends to lose motivation,” said a student, who has been trying to get proficient at typing so that he can apply for a clerical position in a government organisation.

The failure of the National Saffron Mission, according to students, shows how drip irrigation systems designed by non-skilled graduates (those not from agriculture sciences background) can negatively impact the overall saffron yield.

Students also allege that the university has been accommodating everyone and anyone who appears in the entrance examination. There aren’t any negative markings and those who don’t appear in the examination can also get admission.

“The university has only been trying to fill their pockets by admitting as many students as possible. How will a university excel if there aren’t any proper screening process before admission, nor any employment prospects at the end of the course?” asked a student.

Meanwhile, the sit-in protest continues outside the university gate.

Featured image credit: Special arrangement