Amrik Singh, a Ph. D student in Punjabi University in Patiala is hopeful that he will get a decent job after completing his doctorate in Punjabi literature, but a fear consistently haunts him; what will he do if he does not get a job? "I am hopeful that the state government will act on its promise of providing one job to each family. "When asked what will he do if there is no notification regarding the jobs, he said, "What other option do you have? I may end up teaching in a private school. It will fetch Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per month. Not more than that." But this is not the sole problem that people like Amrik face.
In tandem with the national average of 10.5% in 18-25 age group, Punjab is witnessing a meteoric rise in unemployment rate which currently remains at 16%. The situation has only worsened post demonetisation. A study by Azim Premji University suggests that five million people lost their jobs in the aftermath of this economic disaster.
A similar story was shared by Balbir Singh who is preparing for National Eligibility Test (NET) conducted every year by University Grants Commission (UGC). He said that he recently gave interview for a sales executive job at a supermarket retail chain, and is ready to work on a salary as low as Rs 9,000.
He later explained the demoralising effect the rampant joblessness leaves on one’s mind. “When other boys see me, they often ask what I have achieved after spending so many years in the university. It is better to not spend on education and do something else.”
When he was asked how else he could make money, he said that for most youths, the first choice would be trade of drugs.
Another student, who was sitting on a bench in the canteen area, said that only a few can escape this deadly web. “Why do students opt to move out of the country? It is estimated that Rs 25,000 crore go out of the country owing to this migration. Instead of investing lakhs in private universities, they tend to spend more to pursue professional courses in Canada, UK or Australia. You will get some job at least,” he said.
The state that was once hailed as the grain bowl is now a quagmire of unemployment and drug abuse.
Reports suggest that Punjab has been consistently abandoned by a number of industries. The first phase of exodus of industries was witnessed in late eighties following rising India-Pakistan tensions.
“What message do you want to convey when you say our nuclear bombs are not meant for celebrations on Diwali? Industries will only come when there is peace in the state,” said Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Cabinet minister in Punjab government.
However, Raghunath Singh, who is contesting as Communist Party of India (Marxist) candidate from Anandpur Sahib seat argues that it is sheer apathy of Congress and Akali Dal which has landed the state in this situation. “The governments were literally sleeping when industries were moving out of the state. Most industries have moved to Baddi in Solan or Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. If they wish to retain these industries, they cannot escape their duty and invest in its human resources and increase its budgetary allocation,” he said.
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