Hundreds of young men waiting day long in serpentine queues, certificates stacked in their hands, their eyes flickering with anticipation and anxiety- all at once. These young men, all armed with B.A and B.Ed degrees have turned up from different parts of Dungarpur District for a hotel job- the job profile ranges from “mori” (washing dishes) to that of a waiter; the average salary just about Rs. 4000/- per month. They know that these jobs would take them to places like Mumbai and Delhi, far away from their homes- yet they flock in several numbers, hoping to get a breakthrough, to secure a way to lead their future.
There are quite a few pockets in southern Rajasthan that boasts of relatively higher levels of education among its youth. B.A- B.Ed or for that matter, even an M.A holder isn’t a rare occurrence in these villages. While this is definitely true of caste groups like Brahmins, Rajputs and OBC, their increasing presence in tribal and dalit groups makes for a very heartening fact. These youth have higher aspirations, a natural inclination to gather information about emerging opportunities and a will to pursue education simultaneously with their jobs. Their ideal “last stop” though is a cozy government job; three to four attempts at such examinations are extremely common.
But what moves one is the stark absence of any viable employment options for these youth. Sadly, their high spirit does not make up for their lack of exposure or dismal quality of education that they have received. Near-by towns like Dungarpur, Banswara or even Udaipur do not have any major avenues for absorbing such youth. What remains is the option of migrating to Ahmedabad, the land of opportunities. Here too, they lack adequate networks or contacts required to break in to the employment market in this fast growing city. Not able to stand up to the competition of city- educated youth, they end up working as unskilled labourers in construction sites or as waiters in low end hotels, or even worse, as head loaders or factory workers.
A study conducted by the Aajeevika Bureau research team in some comparable areas of Southern Rajasthan substantiates these observations very strongly. Around 50% of our sample size had education levels of more than 10th std., out of which 20% were graduates. Still, they ended up working as semi-skilled or unskilled workers at the 100-odd construction nakas in and around Ahmedabad, a city that thrives on the toil of these teaming millions. 35% of these “highly educated” respondents found work for less than 20 days a month and earned an average of merely Rs.3000/- per month, just about the stipulated minimum wages. Frustrated over their fate, the youth were found lamenting about the years they “wasted” on gaining education.
Not only are they unable to cash upon the higher levels of education that they possess, they end up living and working in sub-human conditions. Gradually, their spirits die a slow death and they become one among the millions of migrant workers streaming into the city. Finally, after an agonizing work life that sucks out their blooming youth, they return to their villages, their work-lives drastically cut short.
One is often left wondering, where the blame lies- is it the age-old poverty trap that victimizes the poor or is it the dismal education system of the country that fails the hope of many a young heart, or further still is it the heartless employment scenario of our economy that refuses to give even a small ray of hope to the countless invisible faces that constitute the workforce of our country. The answer still eludes us…..
(Divya Varma, Aajeevika Bureau)