A few days ago, I happened to overhear a conversation in hushed tones between two teenagers, a boy and a girl, on Hyderabad Metro. I could make out from their talk that they were siblings and hailed from a remote place in Komaram Bhim district of Telangana.
Having taken coaching for Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) exams, the teens had been waiting for the notification for three years. The sister was saying that they could not stay put in Hyderabad any longer as continued stay would be a financial burden on the family. But the brother opposed the view, as he was hopeful that the government would soon issue the notification. The talk came to an abrupt end following the arrival of their station.
This snatch of conversation captures the mood of the youth in Telangana, who have been waiting for notifications from the TSPSC for various positions in government departments since the formation of the state in 2014.
The youth who propelled the Telangana movement for more than a decade have got a raw deal. The formation of the new state has not led to job creation. There have been no regular notifications as expected.
Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) has backed out on even his own poll promise of allowance for unemployed people. The CM seems to attach little electoral value to the youth. Surprisingly, the poor record of the government on the public sector employment front did not affect the outcomes of the 2018 general election, or the recent MLC election and by-election.
While this may have emboldened the government to put the jobs issue on the backburner, opposition parties, on the other hand, are rallying the youth and the unemployed in order to dislodge the TRS government in 2023. Will they succeed?
For most of the youth in Telangana, a job means employment in the government sector – from teachers to clerks, to officers to doctors to nurses, etc. This impression, in fact, was created by the protagonists of the Telangana movement to rope in the youth and students into the agitation.
The leaders of the movement said a separate Telangana state would end the curse of three Ns: nillu (water) nidhulu (funds) and niyamakalu (jobs). The argument was that Andhra rulers had denied these basic rights to the Telangana region, and once a separate state was realised, there would be no dearth of water, funds and jobs.
These magical 3Ns electrified the movement. Fired up by speeches and emotive songs, lakhs of students and youth took a plunge and hundreds committed self-immolation protesting delay in according statehood to Telangana.
Finally, a separate Telangana was achieved and ‘self-rule’ began. But surprisingly, the problem of unemployment persisted. So far, five unemployed people have committed suicide. Many allege jobs have been cut in various sectors. The only department that is recruiting people is the police.
According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, Telangana figures in the list of the top ten states with the highest unemployment rate in India. Not a day passes without some group or organisation staging a dharna or demonstration opposite Pragati Bhavan, the official residence of the CM. The jobs issue has become a rallying cry for all opposition parties.
Prof Kodandaram of Telangana Jana Samiti (TJS) has slammed the government for playing with the lives of the youth by misleading the public about the number of vacancies available. He said his party would fight till all vacancies were filled.
The Congress’ new chief A Revanth Reddy has vowed to launch a padayatra for the jobless. Two veteran activists, Pasam Yadagiri and Innaiah, are working in the name of Telangana Veterans to harness the youth force against the government.
Unemployment has become the anthem for the brand new political party ‘YSR Telangana’. Former IPS officer RS Praveen Kumar, who quit his job last month to work for social justice in the state, has also sounded the bugle for the unemployed. The BJP has unleashed its youth wing BJYM to strike at Pragati Bhavan regularly.
Thanks to former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu’s reforms, public sector employment shrank drastically in Andhra Pradesh – a fact noted even by the Justice Srikrishna Committee, appointed in 2010 to study the ‘situation’ in the state.
The committee remarked: “The point is that public employment constitutes a very small percentage of the working population of the state (3.6%) and an even smaller percentage (1.7%) of the total population. During the last two decades (1990-2010), as the Indian economy has undergone structural changes, a great many areas of employment opportunities in the private sector have opened up, pushing public employment, both in numbers as well as in importance, into the background.”
During the movement for Telangana, such inconvenient facts were suppressed; a separate state was packaged as a haven of public employment.
There is no official figure available on the number of vacancies in the government. There is a wide gap between figures flaunted by the government and the opposition, varying from 2 lakh to 50,000. The opposition parties quote the 11th PRC report, which said as many as 1.9 lakh posts are lying vacant and the administration is being run by outsourced and contract employees.
Politics and Jobs
Prof S Simhadri, former faculty, Osmania University, and current president of the Samajwadi Party, said: “Chief Minister KCR is more into vote bank politics than empowering the youth with jobs. The majority of the state’s unemployed come from a non-technical stream of education offered by traditional universities. As many as 85 per cent of them are from OBC, SC and STs. Jobs make these people financially independent. They do not fit into vote bank politics.”
Simhadri said once empowered, the youth might develop a critical perspective of governance, which might strengthen the opposition voice in the state. “KCR doesn’t want the resources to go waste like this. Spending money on welfare schemes is more beneficial electorally than providing government jobs to unreliable youth,” he told The Federal.
Noted writer and activist BS Ramulu echoed similar sentiments. Ramulu, a former chairperson of Telangana Backward Classes Commission in the previous TRS government, said KCR’s destruction of the public sector was a continuation of Chandrababu Naidu’s policy.
“The number of posts has come down in public sector Singareni Collieries and TSRTC. The government entrusted the recruitment of teachers to TSPSC, which gained notoriety among the youth. Chandrababu Naidu brought down the number of jobs in the combined state from 14 lakh to 9 lakh. The Telangana government brought it down to 3 lakh. Half of these jobs are filled with outsourced employees. KCR knows very well that filling the vacancies with permanent employees, and distributing unemployed allowance at the rate of ₹3,100 per month, will in no way help his party or leaders. So he is redirecting the resources to major projects like Kaleshwaram, and cash transfer schemes that will convert illiterate or semiliterate people into vote banks,” Ramulu said.
However, B Vinod Kumar, vice chairman, state planning board, had a different argument. ”It’s opposition political propaganda. We have filled so far 1 lakh vacancies. Now the CM, after vigorous scrutiny, has identified 50,000 vacancies in the government. The recruitment process will begin soon. And the government has a plan to announce a jobs calendar for annual recruitments,” he said, adding that the entire data on recruitments was available online.
Kumar was emphatic that opposition parties would not succeed in their attempt to tarnish the government’s image on the jobs front.
The question now is: Abandoned by the TRS government, will the youth once again end up as tools in the hands of opposition parties, or will they learn to live in KCR’s ‘Bangaru Telangana’ (Golden Telangana)?