In Kashmir valley, a ray of light from India's economic surge

Mon Aug 8, 2011 2:03am EDT
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By Sanjeev Miglani

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - In a cheerful hall humming with voices, rows of young men and women handle calls from irate cellphone subscribers in eastern India in perfect Hindi.

It could be an outsourcing center in Bangalore or Hyderabad. But this is insurgency-scarred Kashmir, where association with India has always been regarded with suspicion.

As call centers go, the 230-seat office in a run-down industrial quarter of Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar, is small compared with offices that pack in up to 3,000 workers in India's big cities.

The center, run by Essar Group's business processing arm, AEGIS, is the first of its kind in the region.

But if the steady stream of 25 to 30 youth who show up at the office each day looking for jobs is any gauge, the rapid growth of India's giant economy is finally exerting a pull on the troubled Kashmir Valley, the heartland of a 22-year revolt.

Over the next few months AEGIS will add another 270 seats, employing up to a thousand shift workers. Its executives, many of them Kashmiris who have worked in Indian towns and abroad, say it is only the beginning, given the opportunities exploding in one of the world's fastest growing economies.


Indeed, planeloads of India's upwardly mobile middle classes have visited the picture postcard-perfect Kashmir Valley this summer, making it the busiest tourist season since the armed revolt began in 1989.   Continued...

<p>Employees work at a call centre, the first of its kind in the region run by Essar Group's business processing arm AEGIS, in Rangreth, on the outskirts of Srinagar, August 2, 2011. Picture taken August 2, 1011. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli</p>