R.K. Radhakrishnan

They have helped 50,000 youths spread across five districts find employment

CHENNAI: It began as an experiment in June this year at Kariyapatti, the largest village in School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu’s constituency. By December, job fairs held in rural areas had provided jobs to about 50,000 unemployed youths spread across five districts.

“We wanted to do something to realise the ideals that my father and Chief Minister stood for to coincide with his birthday celebrations,” recalls Kanimozhi, MP and main organiser of ‘Kalaignar 85’ job fairs.

“All his life, my father has fought for equality for all and for the rights of the oppressed and the backward classes. Taking the job fair to a rural area or even a district headquarters is one way to make sure that at least the educated unemployed youth have a fair chance,” she says.

Because of her interaction with a cross section of people, ranging from job-seekers to industrialists, Ms.Kanimozhi says she had realised that there was a gap that her party could help to bridge. Many industries did not find suitable hands and the State had significant numbers of educated unemployed. Companies sought people for jobs that ranged from software professionals and managers to watchmen and drivers.

“We merely provided a forum to bring the job-seeker and the company together in an environment that is not intimidating to the job-seeker,” says Ms.Kanimozhi.

The first job fair was held on June10, seven days after Mr. Karunanidhi’s 85th birthday. “We did not know how many people would come. We were overwhelmed by the response,” recalls Mr. Thennarasu. As many as 3,248 candidates registered ahead. Nearly all of them attended an orientation conducted a few days ahead of the actual interviews and over 3,100 attended the interviews.

The organisers – local DMK men led by their district secretary – had talked to 200 companies to come for the job fair. Only a fourth turned up. On the spot, they recruited 1,196 persons.

‘Kalaignar 85’ travelled to Nagercoil (August), Vellore (September), Udhagamandalam (October) and Virudhunagar (November). The largest number of applicants was in Vellore – 65,272.

“In Vellore, one boy had four letters of offer. He came to me asking which he should choose,” recalls Ms. Kanimozhi.

When he was briefed about the job fairs, Mr. Karunanidhi had one question: “What happens to those who do not find a job?” The organisers explained to him that the orientation was done by experts from a cross section of the industry – from NASSCOM to the local security agency. The candidates were clearly told that if they met the qualifications, they would get the job. There was no backdoor entry, no recommendation. “When an applicant sees for himself the transparent manner in which the entire process is conducted, they will not have any doubts in their mind,” says K.K.S.S.R.Ramachandran, Minister and DMK Virudhunagar district secretary.

“At least a few partymen seek recommendations. We explain to them it is not required. If I push in someone through, then why should the companies come for the next fair,” asks Mr. Thennarasu.

On the industrial downturn, Ms. Kanimozhi says there are still jobs for the qualified. The Virudhunagar fair was held after IT companies began feeling the effects of the slowdown.

A NASSCOM spokesperson says they did help out with the orientation programme in Virudhunagar, but the presence of IT companies was minimal. But, in other categories, of the 20,654 youths who attended the interview across 380 firms, appointment orders were given to 14,092 by the time the fair ended. The caravan will travel to Cuddalore in February.