In the ‘Bangalore special’ manifesto, released days before the elections, the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a special promise for the city’s youth: an extended nightlife where curfews on hotels and bars are extended till 1 p.m.
This is the BJP’s idea of wooing the youth in what is among the youngest cities in the country, rated frequently by private surveys as the “most liveable” hub. Ask Bhasker Raj, a commerce graduate working as a salesperson in a jewellery shop, and he shrugs: “They don’t know what our problems are. Of what use is the extended bar timing to me, a commerce graduate who works for a salary of Rs. 6,000, without as much as a weekly off?” The 28-year-old explains that it took him three years to get a job, and that too one that hardly fits his educational profile.
A look through the election manifestos of all the major parties reveals a slew of promises, with phrases such as “up-skill/skill development”, “employment generation” and “vocational training” loosely bandied about. While the incumbent government boasts about some of its achievements on this front, others have promised the moon, and more, to the youth in the State.
These promises barely impress young voters. “There are just no jobs in the market,” says Manjunath (26), who works as a carpentry apprentice in Shivajinagar. After completing his polytechnic diploma, he attended a dozen job fairs. “They take your contact details, put you through a lot of paperwork, and in the end there is nothing,” he says, adding that the only purpose served is that of fooling the media that a lot is being done. “My friends and I attended all these job fairs. No one ever seems to get a real job.”
This is also true of the many skill-development courses run by the government, a majority of which has been outsourced to a private firm, TeamLease. Manjunath’s neighbour, Rajesh Annaiah, went to one of the centres, but at the end of the training period there was no job. “Once you attend the job fair you get calls asking you to attend the programmes; but even there the jobs are only for those who are already good with English or communication.”
This is all eyewash, according to B. Rajashekara Murthy, State secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India. He says even the Youth Policy released by the BJP government was nothing but glib talk. “The State public sector units are in ruins, or have already closed down. Government jobs have disappeared, or have been contracted out. The BJP proudly boasts that its Global Investors’ Meets have attracted investments, but let them go to the villages where land has been acquired en masse and no industry has come up, let alone jobs.”
At present, out of 6 lakh government job posts sanctioned, 1.7 lakh are vacant. The ‘outsourcing capital’ tag that the city wears proudly extends well beyond the IT sector. Mr. Murthy points out that government recruitment has been negligible since the 2000s, and even the jobs that do exist in the public sector are being outsourced or contracted. Needless to say, the payment ranges between a third — or even a quarter — of what the regular employees draw. Add to that the widespread practice of salaries just not being paid by contractors across the State.
A DTP operator, who works for the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike on contract, says that thousands like him are working for paltry salaries, and dealing with huge delays in payment. He says that at any point of time, there is a backlog of two to three months in payment. Like these, other contract employees working in similar job profiles across the State have protested against non-payment of salaries. In the past two years, the number of protests has perceptibly been on the rise.
Bangalore has, for the past half-decade, become the ‘city of jobs’, somewhat comparable to Mumbai as a destination for ‘knowledge workers’. Engineering graduatesfrom across the country land here in hope of a job. This dream too appears to be crumbling, as the IT growth story sees some stagnation. Again, even for this flagship sector, the election manifestos have nothing to offer beyond investment catchphrases.