The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister recently declared that the state has no dearth of jobs; what it sorely lacks are worthy candidates.
Bundelkhand, one of the worst affected swathes of the state when it comes to unemployment, responds.
20-something Shabana Siddiqui, a resident of Chitrakoot district in Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh, nationally known for its religious tourism and nothing much else, qualified her B.Ed in 2012, with “acche khaase 70% marks (pretty decent score of 70%)”. She then sat for the Junior T.E.T (Teacher Eligibility Test) thrice, and qualified. In 2015, she also passed her M.Ed exams and this time, did extremely well with a rank in the state’s top 20. When we meet her recently, shortly after the Chief Minister has announced a sorry lack of skilful youth in the state he leads, Siddiqui is plainly unamused, “Vacancies come and we apply and then god knows who actually gets the post. Considering I’ve been a rank-holder, shouldn’t it count for something? Shouldn’t I have at least got a job by now?”
But holding a rank seldom implies anything by way of a regular income, it would appear – at least in U.P., where the employment stats are not only mind-boggling, but also mind-numbing. With a population of 21 crores – that’s one-fifth of the country’s janta – it does not perhaps come as a complete shock that there are large numbers of unemployed warm bodies, but the desperation revealed in the numbers, is unarguably bone-chilling.
Consider the infamous episode of 2015, when calls were put out for 368 positions of peons, which saw a tsunami of a response across the state. While the call was essentially targeting Class V pass-outs, amongst the 23 lakh applicants were 13 lakh Classes VI to X pass-outs, 1.52 lakh graduates and post-graduates, and even 255 PhD’s.
Cut to just about two weeks ago, when the job call for 62 messenger posts in U.P. Police, again with a Grade V pass eligibility, saw applicants that included 3,700 PhD holders, 50,000 graduates and 28,000 post graduates.
The main reasons for the overqualified yet under-employed syndrome being turned on its head, is of course, money. With an attractive starting salary of Rs. 20,000 per month, the calls are bound to catch the attention of potential candidates desperate for any means to make a living.
It’s what led Mahmud Khan of Banda district in Bundelkhand, who has been trying to get a government job, any job, on mis-adventures across the state. From Kanpur to Lucknow, Allahabad and Gorakhpur, Khan has been actively engaged in the drill of “online form bharo (fill-up), pay the online guy, print the form, admit card. Go to submit.” Just the “bhaada-kiraaya (rent and expenses)” Khan’s spent in travel and transport led him to give it up. “I have been at it since 2010. You need to pay at least 1500 bucks per form.” And how many such forms has he submitted? “About 150-odd, I’d say”, he says, softly.
Monica, also from Chitrakoot, who passed her M.Ed in 2017, has a rant, “I’m just sitting at home. All teachers’ vacancies just get stuck, and then they say there aren’t enough teachers. You tell me. I have done my M.Ed, am I not eligible to be a teacher in U.P.?” And meanwhile Suresh of Banda, who runs a small shop, has rhetoric of his own, “See, there’s no space for everyone – that we can understand. But what about those who deserve it? Karna waale toh bahut hain na, unka kya? (There are so many who want to work and can, what about them?).”
Meanwhile, let’s consider more numbers – for every 1,000 people in U.P., 39 are unemployed, and U.P.’s Labour and Employment Minister Swami Prasad Maurya had confirmed in the Uttar Pradesh legislative council that there are more than 21 lakh registered unemployed people in the state. Replying to a question raised by Congress legislator Deepak Singh during Question Hour in end-August, Maurya had said, “The number of jobs in the government sector are limited, while in the private sector the numbers are very high. The state government organised Investors’ Summit in February this year, and in a span of four months projects worth Rs 60,000 crore have started. If the conditions are favourable, then we will give jobs to 33 lakh persons.”
But Rani of Lalitpur has something else to ask of Yogi Adityanath and his almost-brutal comment on the youth of U.P., “Wasn’t he the one who spoke about education in U.P.? Of improving conditions so that the youth of the state can work for their futures, and the state as well? But now what? Instead of keeping his promise and thinking about our futures, he’s blaming us as being incapable. Yeh toh wohi baat hui, apna kaam banta, bhaad mein jaaye janta”, she adds, quoting the popular Salman Khan dialogue/track.
– Pooja Pande
This Khabar Lahariya article first appeared on The Wire.