You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

2.5 million compete for 6,000 govt jobs in West Bengal

LiveMint logoLiveMint 22-05-2017 Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar

Kolkata: On Saturday, Pankaj Kumar Ram, 22, vowed not to apply for a government job again. Son of a taxi driver in Kolkata, Ram prepared for weeks to sit a test for a state government job on Saturday, but only on reaching the examination centre he realized “it was a complete waste of time”.

Moments before Ram was to enter the examination hall, he figured out that some 2.5 million people were vying for 6,000 jobs, which mathematically means the odds of selection were one in four hundred, or slightly worse, not counting reservations for people from weaker sections of the society.

“I would much rather drive a taxi like my father,” he said, emerging from the examination hall.

The state administration was overawed by the record number of applications it had received for the first such hiring in almost four years. Earlier last week, the entire top brass including the chief secretary, home secretary and the director general of police went into a huddle to review the arrangements.

Though staggering, the numbers aren’t really surprising, according to Prasenjit Bose, a former Left leader-turned activist. For years, job creation in the organized sector is among the lowest in West Bengal, he said, citing data from the labour ministry.

According to the Fifth Employment-Unemployment Survey Report 2015-16—the latest available from September last year—13.9% of people with post graduate degrees, and 9.8% of people who have completed undergraduate studies are unemployed in West Bengal.

Also Read: Is informal the new normal?

The survey showed self-employment had emerged as the dominant form of employment in the entire country, except in certain states. West Bengal is one such, where 43.8% of the workforce is employed as casual labour. “That’s the problem,” said Bose.

Though overall unemployment in the state at 4.9% is on par with the national average, 34.5% of West Bengal’s population have a monthly household income of less than Rs5,000—second only to Madhya Pradesh, where 35.8% of the population live on less than Rs5,000 a month.

Even those who have created jobs for themselves in West Bengal aren’t much better off. The survey showed 80% of the self-employed earned on average only Rs7,500 a month.

Citing data from 2013-14, Bose said West Bengal accounted for 15% of jobseekers in the country at the end of 2013—second only to Tamil Nadu. The survey shows unemployment among people with higher education was “alarmingly high”.

There is no doubt that West Bengal is unable to create jobs, said Dipankar Dasgupta, a former professor of economics at Kolkata’s Indian Statistical Institute. But the situation is not much different in any other state, he claimed, adding that things will not improve unless the industry made investments to add capacity.

Former Union finance secretary Sunil Mitra, who has served in West Bengal for decades, concurs with Dasgupta on the problem being widespread. “Still, 2.5 million applicants for 6,000 jobs is alarming,” he said, adding that solving the problem will take time.

Of the 2.5 million applicants who sat the test on Saturday, some 550,000 had come from other states. Naresh Singh had come from Haryana, travelling overnight. He said about 1-1.5 million people typically apply for such government jobs in his own state and that he had thought things were going to be easier in West Bengal.

Opposition parties in West Bengal seized the opportunity to question the state government’s own claims of creating millions of jobs in the past few years. If the state government had indeed created 6.8 million jobs in 2014-15 and 1.3 million more in 2015-16, why did so many people queue up for a job which pays only Rs16,000 a month, asked Dilip Ghosh, the state president of the Bharatiya Janata Party in West Bengal.

More From LiveMint

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon