The department will sponsor 10 students from the Gujjar and Pahari communities for commercial pilot training at a leading aviation academy. A batch of 20 students will be sponsored for training of cabin crew, air hostess and ground staff in aviation. A senior official said that it would be the first government-sponsored initiative to support the academically-challenged tribal community students in the high-profile aviation, hospitality, media and IT in Jammu and Kashmir.
Some of the training academies approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have been contacted for course modules and the Union Government’s Civil Aviation Department has been approached for designing the framework for screening process to shortlist candidates for the sponsorship to avail commercial pilot license training.
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It has also been proposed to make available aviation courses in the Union Territory’s higher secondary schools for interested candidates to provide them an opportunity to understand the requirements of highly professional training.
Another batch of 100 girl students will be sponsored under the Skill Development programme for undergoing nursing and multipurpose healthcare worker courses. In view of Covid-19 pandemic, new emolument opportunities have emerged particularly in wake of the need felt for strengthening the primary healthcare system. In line with this, another batch of 50 youths will undergo the training of medical technicians and diagnostics. These courses will be implemented in coordination with universities and J&K Skill Development Mission.
In the field of journalism, a batch of at least 10 students will be sponsored this year for undergoing diploma courses for which leading colleges and universities have been approached. Students will undergo digital media training as well.
Further, one batch of 60 students will be screened and shortlisted for sponsorship to skill development training in Information Technology, IT Enables Services, Coding, Data analytics, data operators, cyber security and other sub-specialisations.
Secretary Tribal Affairs Department, Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said that the skill development training landscape needed to be reoriented with emergent requirements and employment markets. The aviation sector, he said, is a fast growing field facing acute shortage of commercial pilots and flight staff particularly in South Asia which is a great employment opportunity for skilled and trained youths for which annual batch of 10 commercial pilots and 20 cabin crew members will be sponsored by the Department.
Dr Shahid said that in view of the covid-19 pandemic, there’s a need to diversify the health sector and strengthen primary healthcare for which department is sponsoring students for various courses providing them self-employment opportunities.
Dr Shahid said that students shall also be sponsored for various courses like Masters in journalism, business administration, computer applications, engineering, IT, ITES as well as Research and Development. The new skill development courses will be launched within a month calling applications from students having requisite qualification and interest in the subject fields. He asked the youths to come forward with their areas of interests for which they need support from the department.
The new courses have been proposed on the 90:10 formula with 90% course fee to be sponsored by the Tribal Affairs Department and 10% student contribution which would also be offered as student loan. The Department will be launching a host of various courses for which scholarship will be provided to undergo professional degrees and diploma courses. All these courses will begin from the current year academic session.
Aviation in particular has become a craze for the young women from Jammu and Kashmir after videos of Captain Sami Ara Sarury and stories about Ayesha Aziz appeared in the media in the last over 10 years. For many of them it was an incredible breaking of the glass ceiling as aviation was considered to be ‘only for men’ until late in the State.
Even as Sami had joined aviation as a cabin crew in 1989 and she began flying as a commercial pilot in 2004, most of the people in J&K knew only about Idrees Lone of Shopian and five or six others who were all males. They included Wasim Khateeb who had a commercial pilot licence from the USA and died as a militant in an encounter with security forces in Jammu’s Reasi district.
Now 51, Sami from Sumbal Sonawari of Bandipora district got a commercial pilot licence from Texas, USA, in 1994. She was reportedly the first Indian Muslim women who became a commercial pilot. In 2004 she began flying Indian Airlines Airbus and in 2018 she was flying Indigo’s Airbus as commander.
Ayesha Aziz of Mumbai with her mother from Baramulla Kashmir was awarded a student pilot licence by the prestigious Bombay Flying Club when she was just 15. She too became an inspiration for some female youngsters in Kashmir. Meanwhile, there were stories about Jammu’s Shivani Manhas with three other women pilots flying 16,000 kilometres without stopping from San Francisco in the United States to Bengaluru. Manhas too joined Air India as a pilot. Subsequently, Kashmiri Muslim women Iram Habib too joined as a commercial pilot.
Newspapers also reported 20-year-old Farhan Majeed of the militant-infested Awantipora area of Pulwama district becoming Jammu and Kashmir’s youngest male pilot. Officials believe that more than 300 young boys and girls from Jammu and Kashmir have attained training and different licences in flying and many of them are working as cabin crew in different domestic and international airlines. However, none of them was reportedly from a tribal background.
The project of sponsoring young boys and girls from tribal areas for training in aviation and hospitality is the brainchild of the young Indian Administrative Service officer Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary, who himself is a Gujjar from Rajouri district and has recently joined as Secretary Tribal Affairs in the Jammu and Kashmir Government.