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The Madras HC Has A Bizarre Idea To Solve India’s Education And Employment Crisis

What happens when a court judgment completely overlooks a socio-political crisis?

When Honourable Justice Subramaniam of Madras HC ordered that “If overqualified candidates were appointed for performing the duties and responsibilities attached to the Group-4 services and basic services, undoubtedly, the efficiency level in the public administration would be brought down…,” what he didn’t know was that his judgment is completely blind to the current condition of higher education system in our country.

One major question to start off this article would be: is BTech somehow an over-qualification for a job where BA or BSc is not? If this is somehow implied, then what is the criteria to state that as a fact? Aren’t BTech graduates more unemployed than BA and BSc graduates all over the world? If yes, then what does this statement actually mean?

Does it mean that engineering students are more intelligent than science and arts graduates? Does the honourable judge really want himself to be a part of this debate?

Moving on, for a broader perspective on the issue, I try to look at this judgment in the context of two books, one is Timepass by Craig Jeffrey published in 2011 and other is Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber (2019). The conclusion you will get by reading these two books is that the leadership has failed the youth left, right and centre; in fact, everywhere around the world, when it comes to education and employment.

In the first book mentioned here, Jeffrey looks into the everyday life of youth in Uttar Pradesh. Young minds in India in 2010 were doing the same thing that they are doing now, they were studying to get government jobs, but without compromising on educational degrees. Jeffrey notes that young men collect as many degrees as possible while they write exams for government services.

He called it timepass of collecting degrees, but the men there were dealing with a practical concern. They were getting educated simultaneously so that they were eligible for more than one type of jobs. According to the Madras HC judgment, they have chosen a bad adaptation strategy. They should have remained uneducated.

In the judgment, it has been argued that highly qualified people do not do justice to the jobs that they are in, they tend to keep on applying for better positions. But when is it not true for any job ever? That happens all the time, people are availing distance education or sitting for departmental exams or looking for deputations in the government system.

The government even gives increment to people who get degrees while they are on the job. So is the judgment really concerned about productivity on the job? Or was it just oblivious to the fact that young people are suffering on several levels? Even in motivational terms, is it possible to get to a better position without trying to reach there in the first place?

The judgment tries to keep a narrow view of the larger problem. The problem is the shrinking job market and higher education quality, both things that are controlled by the government, not by the applicants. If an MBBS holder is applying for a peon’s position, what should we worry about the efficiency of the said employment or the undervaluation of a skilled professional?

What the Honourable Justice should have done is comment on the government policy on education and employment, he should have addressed the reason as to why highly educated people are playing to these meagre positions? Do they want to earn less money? Or do they really want to not work all day? Or they are just struggling to have a good life in the private sector? Is it possible to make the corporate sector friendly to employees like some countries are doing?

Is it not easy to blame the common people, in this case, the applicant, for choosing bad employment for themselves? The judgment also presumes that in other types of jobs, the applicant will be able to use their potential to the maximum, and for this I would like to refer to the next book.

In the second book mentioned, Graeber has pointed out that most of the professions in the modern world are ‘bullshit’ (as the title of the book already mentions); his qualification for these jobs is a simple self-probing – what is the real outcome of your job?

In his sense, most marketing and advertising jobs are bullshit, they have no real value. He also mentions that the most important jobs are not necessarily the one people get educated for. And that qualified people are not employed in the most productive jobs. There is a gap of education and professional achievement in every sector.

In this context, the peon has a more important function in a company than say, a principal secretary, whose entire time in the office revolves around waiting for files to be turned in. At one level, this situation brings forth the kind of society that we live in – a capitalist one, at another it talks about the dignity of labour which has nothing to do with skill or payment, but rather, a presumed importance of the job performed.

Also, why does the judgment concern a few government jobs and not others? It should have, in detail, also commented on the fact that is it okay for an IIT/IIM graduate to take the civil services or Staff Selection Commission exam? Is it not a waste of government’s investment in the students of these institutions?

If not, then why are BTech students from any other college who undertake self-financed courses ineligible for other types of government jobs? Is something wrong in performing duties of the government if one does not have a fancy engineering degree?

This judgment overlooks all the sociological concerns in the education and employment context, it is restrictive to leave a section of society out of the government jobs. It also comes at a time when the present government is on its way to decrease the number of posts at all levels as the preceding governments have done.

What should the youth expect of the people in power, who have taken positions at the time when things were relatively easier to get? They are failing us everywhere just because they do not know what Jeffrey and Graeber are talking about. They are far removed from the current times, thus leaving youth in a sorry state and ironically, they sit and wonder why so many students are resorting to suicide and so many more continue to be severely depressed.

Featured image for representative purpose only.
Featured image source: Raki_Man/Wikimedia Commons; Ramesh Sharma for India Today Group via Getty Images.
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