Kota: Coaching Capital at the Cost of Joblessness, Shut Factories, and an Unreliable Economy for Citizens
City Park, the place which was earlier the area for the IL Group workers
While leaders became crorepatis and coaching institutes continue to mint money, shutdowns of companies have compelled the citizens of Kota to adopt businesses related to coaching and left them with an uncertain future.
A coaching hub for the country and the current backbone of the city's economy, Kota was not always the answer to producing engineers and medical practitioners. Instead, the skeletons of the city's past lie in the industries that employed thousands but ultimately, with the shutdown of manufacturing units and factories, spawned an army of unemployed people.
People who had no escape but to join hands with the coaching hubs and create businesses of their own to make ends meet. Once, they have seen their lives come to ruins with the factories, but now, the leased hostels, the mess, and other services that students need are the only escape for their livelihood.
"Earlier, the area after Nayapura was nothing. Now, it has become a posh place. All because of the students and the newly created riverfront," says Mr RK Swamy, a 71-year-old veteran trade union leader and mathematician.
The popularity of the coaching industry has increased rapidly, in stark contrast to the past. Kota, the city now filled with students, was once bustling with industrial workers. But as the coaching industry grew, it prospered at the cost of these industrial workers being bait to the bigger picture.
The first company in the country to bring acrylic and nylon was JK Group of Kota, where over 6000 workers were employed. The company had a good stint with seven units in the city manufacturing tires and fibres. The city's landscape changed after the JK Group shut down in the late nineties.
The city was hounded by joblessness. People from different states chose to migrate back, and others looked for jobs in Jaipur and other cities. But for its original residents, there was nothing but perishing dreams. It is strange how a city known for producing the best engineers and medical professionals in the country is now sitting on a death knot when it comes to job creation and the use of skilled labour.
The shutdown of JK Group brought a wind of other companies shutting down as well, including Oriental Power Cables, Rajasthan Metals, IL Group, etc. The place where IL Group resided is today the City Park, occupied chiefly by students and youngsters. All the renowned names today have big coaching businesses, like L N Maheshwari (Allen) and Vinod Kumar Bansal, who once worked for JK Group. After the company shut down, Bansal started coaching engineering in a small room with only a few students, and the rest is history.
By 2012, almost all the industries had vanished, but one of them, Samtel Group, stood firm and had record production in November 2012. The employees had heard that they would each be given a silver coin and sweet packets as a Diwali gift.
"We were all very happy and never knew what was coming. On November 7, right before Diwali, we were stopped at the entrance of the factory gate, leaving us astounded. Our world came crashing down when the guard informed us that the factory was shutting down and that we should leave," an ex-worker said.
Workers of the Samtel Group who have been fighting for their dues for 11 years now
The company workers, till today, are fighting their case in multiple courts of Rajasthan and Delhi for the money the company was supposed to pay them, including the salaries and the promise the management made to pay them up till 2014. Employees gave Rs 115 crore as the estimated amount the company was supposed to disburse to its employees. Including everyone, around 1800 workers in a single day were rendered jobless. Their fight is headed by Milan Sharma, who was also an operator there.
Dashrat worked at Samtel for 19 years. He says today he is not living but only surviving somehow
"Our condition got worse during the fight. Despite being skilled, we had to choose to work as security guards or do any other menial jobs to run our families. Our salaries cut down to half of what they used to be," he said. There is not a single leader whom these workers did not approach, including the current Lok Sabha Speaker and MP from Kota, Om Birla.
One leader recognised as the person who made Kota a hub of industries in the 1970s is Rikhavchand Dharival. Today, his son, Shanti Kumar Dharival, is a sitting MLA and a cabinet minister in Ashok Gehlot's regime. He is also a candidate today from Kota North and has been the MLA for three complete terms and has also been an MP from Kota once, all as a part of the Indian National Congress. While the father created industries and brought stability to the lives of citizens by making scope for jobs, the son could do nothing to save these industries, which were the backbone of the city's economy.
Instead, he is known for the beautification of the city and for making the city signal-free in terms of traffic. He is the one who got the riverfront made, which is well recognised by the people today.
"He could have done something for us, if not save the industries, at least ensure that the workers got their dues. Instead, he left us high and dry," says Surinder Pal Singh, who worked in Samtel for 12 years. Now, in the Landmark area where workers of Samtel and other small industries used to live lies Allen Coaching Centre, and along with it, hostels, mess, and fast food chains.
Year after year, the economic condition of the workers' families kept deteriorating.
Unemployment led the citizens to create jobs for themselves. Set up small businesses or anything related to the coaching hub as the number of students increased year after year.
Sunil Kumar, who used to work as an operator in Samtel, earning Rs 12,000 a month in the year 2012, was compelled to run a vegetable stall ever since. His monthly income has dropped to Rs 6,000 a month. Dashrat today runs a small men's salon and makes Rs 8,000 a month. He had to sell off the only land he owned after Samtel shut down. To date, he lives on rent. There are hundreds of such cases. But there are a few which show how the dying industries and the booming coaching hub have made the economy of Kota unreliable for its citizens.
Sunil was compelled to sell vegetables and somehow support his family. For his skill, there are no companies now in the city.
Today, the leader, Milan Sharma, runs a small hostel that he took on the lease and a mess he recently started. His income dependency is completely on the students who come to Kota, in the landmark area. Other workers of IL company are supervisors in several messes that run across the city in Jawahar Nagar, Rajiv Gandhi Nagar, and other such areas.
"The industries shut down, and we still have not recovered from the loss. We are still struggling to build our lives; it completely depends on the coaching industry. But post lockdown, we have seen the online education trail follow, and today, the number of students who come to Kota is decreasing. The yearly prices for the coaching centres have also shot up, and it is getting difficult for the parents to send their kids here," says Milan Sharma.
But the lockdown is not the sole reason behind this. With growth, the coaching hubs are now increasing their market by opening in different states. They are everywhere, in UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and many other states. This, although it allows students to gain education in their city or state, it leaves the citizens of Kota in a difficult situation with every passing year.
"If this industry fails, it will be the last nail in our coffin," says a former worker of a company that got shut.
While the industry shutdowns affected the locals, the coaching hubs continued to grow and opened one centre after another across the city, even at its borders. Not just the owners of these big coaching institutes but even the MLAs have become richer over the years.
In the recent affidavit filed by the candidates declaring their wealth, it was found that most of the candidates from Kota are crorepatis.
Kalpana Devi, the sitting MLA from Kota South, has declared assets worth Rs 43 crore. Shanti Kumar Dharival sits on a pile of Rs 6 crore of declared assets. Their wealth has exponentially grown since the last elections as well. The coaching industry itself generates a turnover of Rs 10,000 crore yearly.
The citizens who run small hostels at an affordable price narrate that the assets that we see of these leaders are not limited to that. In their relatives' names, they also have different big hostel buildings and other sources linked directly to the coaching companies.
It is easier to mint more money in the education industry. In a place like Kota, known to be the coaching capital, the scope for exemplary income has no boundaries. The industries fell apart, and the jab was born by the city's citizens. And now, since most of these workers who lost their jobs are involved in private businesses, the politicians can easily lay their hands off them. In a factory, there are laws that owners would have to abide by, labour laws that would keep a constant check on the companies, and as the government enabled its death, the citizens stare at a bleak future if the coaching institutes go down.
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