With the lack of jobs becoming a major issue in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election, over 60 youth groups representing the educated unemployed and government job aspirants have demanded that the Centre declare unemployment a national disaster.
Joining together under the banner of Yuva Halla Bol, the groups passed a resolution on Sunday giving the Central and State governments one month to meet their demands for job opportunities, fair selection, an exam code and recruitment bodies.
“The government must first acknowledge that this is a serious issue; only then they can take action. Instead, they are trying to hide the unemployment data,” said Anupam, founder of Yuva Halla Bol (YHB) and a vice-president of Yogendra Yadav’s Swaraj India party.
He was instrumental in creating the YHB coalition in the wake of widespread protests against the Staff Selection Commission examination paper leak in March 2018. “If the parties in power at the Centre and in the States do not act on our demands, we will take them for being anti-youth, and they should not be our representatives…The youth will campaign against such parties in the election.”
At a youth summit in the capital, several hundred young men, along with a handful of women, repeated the movement’s slogan, Job chahiye, jumla nahin , and voiced support as speakers from different States and professions recited a familiar complaint.
“There are 24 lakh sanctioned but vacant posts in State and Central governments. Instead of filling them, the government is destroying jobs…We need a law to guarantee employment for educated youth,” said Akshay Hunka of Berozgaar Sena, one of the groups that has joined the YHB platform.
Such legislation, which would provide compensation to unemployed youth, is one of the YHB’s major demands. Another is an exam code with detailed time lines, stipulating that every recruitment process be completed in nine months.
“In 18 years of Jharkhand’s existence as a State, only five rounds of the Jharkhand Public Service Commission recruitment has happened. For the last round, the notification was issued in January 2015. Till 2019, the recruitment process for that round has not been completed,” said Sharif Ansar from Jharkhand.
Aspirants for jobs in the railways, the police and schools shared sector-specific grievances. “Out of 24 lakh vacancies, 10-12 lakh are for teachers alone. But the government is not taking education seriously,” alleged Shailendra Singh.
While the panel was entirely male, a few women were scattered in the audience. “For many women, it is a fight against patriarchy to get educated and then to apply for a job. When there is such corruption and difficulty in getting a job, many women cannot fight further. I applied for the Basic Teacher Certificate last year, but the exam papers were leaked twice,” said Lucknow University graduate Pooja Shukla, who says she has been blacklisted from admission to a Masters degree because of her involvement in student agitations. “The government wants the youth to stay unemployed, so they can make money off us. No one is refunding application fees to those who do not get the job.”
At a recent railway recruitment exam, 2.37 crore people applied for 60,000 vacancies, each applicant paying a ₹500 fee. “The Railways made over ₹1,000 crore from that one exam,” said Anupam. “And each candidate fills in a dozen such forms for different exams. Apart from exam fees, there are coaching classes, books and hostels. We are trying to quantify the value of this whole parallel industry that feeds off the hopes of poor unemployed youth.”