Last updated on May 8, 2020
A large chunk of India’s youth spend their most productive years preparing for competitive exams, facing repeated failure and frustration. After the pandemic, layoffs in the private sector will only deepen this syndrome
27- years- old, Anand Kumar loiya was happy with his job in a private company in Pune until his girlfriend told him that her father wouldn’t agree to her marriage with Anand, as he doesn’t have a government job. He then decided to quit the job and start preparing for government exams. He filled the application form of Railway Recruitment council (RRC) for the post of assistant loco pilot from Mumbai Board in 2014 and took the exam. But unfortunately he couldn’t clear it.
From there on, to get a government job became his new found passion. He came back to his village Pura Kalan in Lalitpur district UP in 2014. As the eldest male member in his family, Anand then realised the responsibility which he couldn’t sense staying away from the family. He started managing his cousin brother’s grocery shop to earn some money for the marriage of his sisters.
Anand’s father died in 2009, after a long illness that put huge responsibility on him, Anand then joined Government Polytechnic College, Lalitpur and completed a three-year diploma course in mechanical engineering. after that he got a campus placement in a private firm based in Pune. He quit it in 2014.
Since he was preparing for a government job he thought that he should complete his engineering and went to Rajiv Gandhi Proudhyogiki Vishwavidyalaya, Bhopal for his studies. Meanwhile, he cleared some exams, like the post of constable in MP police, forest guard but failed to clear the physical test in these cases.
After a gap of four years, in January 2018, the Railways once again announced vacancies for Group C exam. Anand filled the form and sat for the preliminary exam in August 2018, after clearing it he took mains in January 2019, then took psychological test and medical test. But his name did not appear in the final list. He is still on the waiting list.
All his dreams were shattered when his girlfriend married somebody else. He became unemployed. But he is still preparing for government exams. “It has been many years since I am preparing for these exams. Now it is hard for me to concentrate on my studies but I am still preparing, as I believe a government job is about security,” he says.
Anand again filled the application form of Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) non-technical popular categories (NTPC), group D in January 2019, but no exams have taken place so far.
Railway minister Piyush Goyal recently responded in Parliament to a question in Parliament about the exam not being conducted.. He said the process of finalisation of Examination Conducting Agency (ECA) is going on and dates of the exams will be announced after the selection. Minister also informed that 1.15 crore applications have come so far, which itself says a lot about the condition of unemployment in India.
Anand is a well qualified mechanical engineer but now he is planning to take Group D exams, for which qualification is merely 10th pass. “What option do I have? Almost 6 years have passed since I quit my job, I don’t know who will employ me, whether I would get a job or not, that’s why I am preparing,” he says.
As per data tabled in Parliament two year ago, the country has more than one million vacancies at the elementary and secondary school level. But the government fails to recruit qualified youth, creating a situation of huge underemployment — underuse of a worker because the job doesn’t use skills of the worker.
Like Anand, there are many youths in India in the trap of government exams. Years pass and these youth keep preparing for competitive exams. The tedium and loneliness of long years of preparation make these youth so frustrated that they get desperate set for any government job even if they are overqualified for a particular opening. The prestige associated with government jobs adds to their misery as their peers don’t respect private jobs.
Of course, the origin of this syndrome is that Indian parents living in small towns believe that only government jobs ensure security in life. “Government jobs provide benefits that you don’t get in private jobs, they provide old age pension, proper paid leave,” says Rakesh Gupta, panchayat coordinator and father of a daughter who works in the post office. Pension, however, is being phased out.
How government jobs are coveted can be measured by a report came in 2018 that reveals that for the post of peon, as many as 93,000 people applied in UP. These applications included 3,700 PhDs, 50,000 graduates and 28,000 post graduates, while the qualification for the job was class v. For each such government exam, lakhs of students fill the application form.
There is sickness within the system too, compounding the problem of job aspirants. Shubham Jain, who did computer engineering and is now a government job aspirant, says, “Except banks and UPSC, no government agency organises timely exams. Some get delayed, results get canceled and we keep on preparing without any closure.”
The unemployment rate in February was 7.78 as per data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). With the outbreak of Covid-19, that rate would escalate and It will also strengthen the belief among the Indian middle class that only government jobs are safe. But Indian youth like Anand waste the prime of their lives preparing for a government job.