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Young Indians Protest Widespread Unemployment

Niranjan Kumar, one of the jobless youth protesting against alleged errors in Indian Railways recruitment, checks out a notebook in his dormitory room in Patna city in the eastern state of Bihar, India, January 29, 2022. 2022. (REUTERS/Krishna N. Das)
Young Indians Protest Widespread Unemployment
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Niranjan Kumar was one of 12.5 million young people in India who applied for 35,000 jobs with the country’s railways department.

The department started employment tests more than a year ago. The 28-year-old mathematician, his friends, and thousands of others spent years preparing for the tests. But they did not even make the shortlist of people under consideration for the jobs.

Last week, Kumar along with tens of thousands of unemployed youths in Uttar Pradesh protested what they called a mismanaged employment process. Some protestors blocked traffic. Others damaged and burned train cars.

"The government is playing with our lives," Kumar told Reuters. He said the government wants to turn public jobs into those with private companies.

India has long had an unemployment problem. And top government jobs always bring large numbers of candidates. But the widespread anger over the railways is creating problems for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Important state elections are coming in February and March, including in Uttar Pradesh.

Modi came to power in 2014 promising development that would create millions of jobs for young and educated Indians. But national unemployment reached 23.5 percent in 2020, says the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). It has remained well above 7 percent since, much higher than the world average.

As of last month, India had more than 52 million unemployed people looking for work, CMIE data shows. But that number does not include many jobless people in the country of 1.35 billion people who have stopped looking for work.

India's working-age population - those between 15 and 64 - is estimated at 1 billion. And just 403 million of those people have jobs, the CMIE says.

"Unemployment is a very deep crisis - it is the responsibility of the prime minister to resolve it," opposition party leader Rahul Gandhi wrote on social media website Twitter this month. "The country is asking for answers, stop making excuses!"

A spokesperson for Modi’s party said the government recognized the situation and is working to create jobs in industries such as defense. He said Modi himself had directed officials to fix the problems with employment at the railways.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York City, Sept. 25, 2021.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York City, Sept. 25, 2021.

‘Only way out’

In the latest incident, Kumar and the other unsuccessful candidates accuse the Indian Railways of mismanaging the employment process. They say the same people were added for several different jobs.

"Had they shortlisted one candidate for only one role, we would have made it too," Kumar said.

Kumar lives in Kashi Lodge, in Bihar's capital of Patna. Those who live in the building are mostly from poor rural families. And they have been preparing for the tests for government jobs for at least five years.

"I have not paid my rent for a year and my father has told me he won't support me financially beyond this year," Kumar added. "A government job for me is the only way out."

Ajay Kumar Mishra is another man living at Kashi Lodge. He said he was once a strong Modi supporter.

"We poured our heart out for him," Mishra said. "Now he will have to listen to the same youth who are hurting so much."

Mishra says he has to find a job quickly because his father will retire as a university worker next year. It is now his responsibility to financially care for his family.

"It's now or never for us," he said. "We have started a leader-less revolution in which everyone is a leader because everyone is affected.”

I’m Dan Novak.

Reuters reported this story. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

mismanage to manage or control (something) badly​

role n. a part that someone or something has in a particular activity or situation ​

rent n. money that you pay in return for being able to use property and especially to live in an apartment, house, etc., that belongs to someone else​

pour (our) heart into idiom to make a lot of effort to do something.​