The numbers are weaving. 23 lakh applicants for 368 peon’s jobs in UP, 25 lakh vying for 6000 Group D jobs in Bengal, 25 million applications for 90,000 jobs in the Railways, 2 lakhs for 1137 vacancies for the post of police constables in Maharashtra.
Somehow these numbers from the last few years highlight the scarcity of jobs in many parts of India, but on the other hand, they speak to the continued power of the government job.
In a growing economy one must think that there is a numerous number of career options to be chosen but certainly, we see this happening in the larger cities where people prefer private sector jobs over government jobs, because of money, growth prospects and work culture.
But when you step into the larger India you would realize that situation is changing in small-town India and the picture changes completely.
The private sector is viewed largely with suspicion and more than a little contempt.
The private job is considered to be work at its most sweaty and unrewarding.
One is answerable to the owner and the hours are long and hard with no permanence.
The exception is an IIT degree, which is considered as a passport to all kinds of opportunities; but even for many IIT students, the ultimate destination is a government job.
The reason for the preference for a government job is easy to understand as the biggest fact is that it provides permanence.
It speaks volumes for the economy when stability is valued over everything else. The government job ‘settles’ one’s life into a template of ever-after; anxiety about the future is substantially managed.
As compared to a privet sector jobs government job is less taxing in terms of the effort that needs to be put in; the ‘no tension’ nature of employment is often spoken of.
In most of the parts of India power is stronger than the money.
Government jobs give identity in the ‘official’ social map of a region.
In India, People consider somebody as per one’s caste and then on basis of one’s official designation.
The intractability of the administrative system becomes the reason for its continued power- to crack it, one must be inside it.
In small-town India, official power is a palpable presence; cars zoom around with designations on the number plate, names of municipal officers are common knowledge, and transfers of key officers become headline news.
Which is why a government position, however menial, is often referred to an objectively more attractive private sector or entrepreneurial option?
We can see the evidence of this in the kind of people who apply for government jobs- CAs, MBAs, even doctorates can be found applying for jobs of peons and clerks- positions they would not dream of taking in the private sector.
These results in a vast number of young people finding themselves trapped in a bubble of competitive exams, responding to a constructed reality of exams and interviews that bears little resemblance to real life.
Lots of subjects have to be mugged, concealed skills developed, purely for the purpose of landing the job.
The learning here leaves little by way of residual knowledge; all of it gets consumed in the act of finding a job.
The intense demand for these jobs should mean that the government should get the best talent that is available.
For most of the aspirants, the hard work stops when they get the appointment letter in their hand. After that, they don’t consider it as work but as power. No doubt the government is spotted with extremely bright and committed people, but this is not a proper pattern, but simply a function of some individuals.
The attractiveness of the government jobs indicates that India of full of public-service-minded people who want to work to improve things on the ground.
Unfortunately, the popularity of the government job is a sign of how administration gets decoded not as service, but as a power despite all the progress the country has made.