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Despite Violent Agitation, Why Reservation Might Still Not Get Jats The Jobs They Want

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By Himadri Ghosh and Nikhil Babu, IndiaSpend.com:

Sonipat, Gurgaon, New Delhi: Square-jawed, cleft chin and hair untidily spiked, Vikas Thakaran glowered as he explained why he was here in this scrum of young men blocking Bakhtawar chowk, 30 km southwest of India’s capital, part of a violent week-long agitation that has left 12 dead, vehicles and railway stations burnt, and the army deployed.

Thakaran, 24, is a computer-science engineer, but he is unemployed. “I applied for government jobs four-five times, many times elsewhere, but I didn’t get through,” he told IndiaSpend. We found many educated, angry and either unemployed young men like Thakaran, or those unable to find a job commensurate with their aspirations and education, among the thousands of protesters from a caste group that many say has no reason to protest.

Traditional landowners, the Jats are a powerful Hindu caste now demanding classification as a “backward” caste–a contention rejected last year by the Supreme Court–so that government jobs can be reserved for them.

However, an IndiaSpend analysis of employment data and evaluation of aspirations of young Jats revealed that the protests are manifestations of India’s slow, inadequate job-creation and a failing education system creating thousands of “unemployable” graduates.

This disconnect between education, aspirations and jobs explains similar demands to be classified as “backward” and “other-backward-caste (OBC)” by socially powerful caste groups–Gujjars (Rajasthan), Marathas (Maharashtra), Patels (Gujarat) and Kapus (Andhra Pradesh), among others–struggling to find satisfactory employment.

Organised Industry Added 500,000 Jobs In 2014; India Needs More Than A Million A Month

Saurabh Rangi, 24, a native of Rohtak city, scored 75% in the All India Engineering Entrance Exam (AIEEE), but he is on the streets of Haryana’s Gurgaon city–30 km northwest of Delhi–because he did not get admission to a government college and had to pay “lakhs” to graduate from a private college. Rangi is angry; he holds a public-relations trainee job at cardekho.com, an automobile website, but wants a government job.

“I got a B.Tech in 2013, but I am unemployed even after two years,” said Keshav Lather, as he protested in Gohana, Sonipat, 43 km west of Rohtak. “I have applied for a Central government job. But I always lose out because of reservation…a professional education does not necessarily mean a good job. We were surprised at the type of jobs and money offered to many of our friends.”

Labourers, guards and maids form the majority of the jobs available to more than a million Indians–some estimate it is nearly two million–who join the workforce every month, as IndiaSpend reported. As we explain later, over 30 years, India generated no more than seven million jobs every year, with only a fraction being the kinds of jobs the young Jats desire.

This is why protesters across India demand secure government jobs; it is why engineers and doctors throng job openings for peons, clerks and constables (as they did in Uttar Pradesh last year, when 2.3 million applied for 368 positions of peons).

As we also reported, new employment data indicate two disquieting trends.

One, a slowdown in employment in the formal, organised sector (which in any case employs only 12% of India’s labour force), the prime staging ground of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make-in-India programme. In Indian factories, more than 400,000 people lost their jobs during the financial year 2012-13, according to government data.

Two, this slowdown hides a larger, long-term trend: India Inc is automating and squeezing more output from its workers and so needs fewer of them.

In isolation, the latest government data show that organised industry added nearly 500,000 jobs in 2013-14. Unemployment in India, according to labour ministry data, is less than 5%, but these data do not reflect under-, partial- or disguised-employment, such as Rangi’s.

No more than 17% of all Indians were wage earners, as this 2013-14 labour ministry report acknowledged, with no more than 60% of those above 15 years old who sought work over the year getting it (more than 46% in urban India did not find work).

With So Many Unemployable, How Will Reservations Solve The Jobs Problem?

We heard similar stories of unemployment and resentment among many Jat youth in Haryana and UP. Amit Neniwal, 26, of Malikpur, Jhajjar, 72 km west of Delhi, studying to be a company secretary, spoke of the constant mental strain of ending up like his friends–unemployed.

On the other side of Delhi, in UP’s Muzaffarnagar district, Manish Balyan, 23, said the Jat demand was “completely legitimate”. He said: “Some within our community have remained socially and economically backward for generations.”

Much of this under-achievement and frustration is a result of a growing population and shrinking farmland. Those who move off the farm often find that an education isn’t enough.

For instance, no more than 3% of engineers who want software or core engineering jobs are good enough for such jobs, with 74% poor in English skills and 58% lacking adequate analytical or quantitative skills, according to this study by Aspiring Minds, an employability solutions company.

The Centre, on February 21, acceded to some Jat-reservation demands, but will reservations alone solve the larger problem of unemployment? That is unlikely.

India needs 23 million jobs annually, according to a Kotak Securities report, but over the last 30 years, the country has created about 7 million jobs every year.

In 2012, India created 9.9 million jobs. A Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 9%–the government expects a GDP growth rate between 7% and 7.5%–will create no more than 12.9 million jobs, falling short by almost half.

The United Nations has said India will have the world’s largest youth population by 2020, and that population, in the age-group of 15-34, grew from 353 million in 2001 to 430 million in 2011, with millions unemployed.

“What India needs annually is not just 23 or 24 million jobs but livelihoods,” said economist Ajit Ranade.

The Kotak report said more than 250 million people would be looking for jobs over the next 10 years, as more women enter the workforce. This number has not taken account people who will migrate from agriculture.

Ranade said job opportunities would come only with new investments and enterprises. “If we need to create two million jobs every month, then we need to also create 20,000 to 50,000 new enterprises every month,” he said. “At this stage of our business cycle, we need a big push in the form of investment in infrastructure.”

Even if that happens, there are issues of efficiency–and slower job growth–to consider.

The Government’s Target: Skill A Million People A Week (400 million by 2022)

Agriculture–which provides 60% of all jobs–reported the largest absolute decline over five years leading to 2009-10, 15.7 million, according to this Mint report.

In the secondary and tertiary sectors, the data show a decline in the rate of jobs created despite moderate growth. From about 65 in 1970-71, the number of workers per factory came down to around 45 by 2012-13.

In the information technology sector, 1.4 million sought jobs in 2015, of which 209,000 or 17%, found jobs, according to the Kotak report, a statistic that explains the frustrations among Jat engineers.

In the banking sector, net hiring, by government and private banks, fell from 124,857 in 2012 to 33,224 in 2015.

 

Source: Kotak Game-Changer Perspectives compilation, December 31, 2015

Jat youth on the streets do not want informal-sector jobs, as our interviews indicated, but here too, as IndiaSpend has reported, employment declined by 6% since 2004-05—and this is the sector that offers the most jobs, 340 million.

Ranade said the government should focus on small and medium enterprises, revamp infrastructure, rationalise tax structures, revive skills in traditional industries, set up technical training institutes producing skilled workers and ensure ease of doing business.

Developing new skills and re-skilling older workers is a key approach, but as this IndiaSpend report indicated, the Modi’s massive skill-development effort needs to do much more.

“The plan, massively ambitious in scale, aims to train over 40 crore (400 million) Indians by 2022, which equates to approximately one million people per week!” researchers from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government wrote for IndiaSpend in December 2015.

“For perspective: only 7 million Indians were trained in 2014, and the National Sample Survey shows that as of 2012, fewer than 5% of all Indians had ever received formal skills training. To succeed, this plan must identify and target eligible youth with a desire for skills training. However, it is not clear that current recruitment strategies cast a wide enough net to reach these hefty goals.”

This article was originally published on IndiaSpend.com, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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