Bihar’s bahaar, evident in education

It is not uncommon to hear about sob-worthy tales of unemployment in Bihar. Joblessness has become a standard norm for students who await examinations endlessly in various universities across the state. But all this pales in comparison to the latest news concerning applicants for guest teacher posts in Bihar schools.

A state which boasted of maximum number of IAS aspirants and government employees is now reduced to a state of such extreme unemployment that PhD holders and engineers are forced to apply for posts of guest teachers.

News agency ANI quoted an official of the education department of Bihar as saying: “We have received nearly five lakh applications for 4,247 posts of guest teachers in schools. It is much beyond our expectation.”

What the official did not understand is that it is beyond and below the expectations of the applying engineers and PhDs as well. Nobody goes through a strenuous course like engineering to eventually apply for a temporary job as schoolteacher. The state, it seems, is punishing bright students for pursuing difficult courses such as engineering and PhD.

While most politicians in power are next to illiterate, they are also lawmakers who have no empathy for the suffering millions. An interesting point is that under the RJD rule, the state at least promoted welfare of the lower castes and agricultural workers.

The MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme ensuring rural employment, launched in 2005 by the central government under the leadership of Manmohan Singh, became a major stepping stone for the development of the poor classes. It is obvious that while that government had the interests of the poor people at its heart, the present one is utterly oblivious of their concerns. The MNREGA was criticised by the urban dwellers because they claimed that it made them lose their “help staff” (which is just a fancy way to say slaves). When the rural poor managed to earn enough in their villages, they had less reason to come to cities to wash dishes and wipe floors. The current Narendra Modi regime has brought the rural employment guarantee to a state of total despair, thereby ensuring the poor population’s escape to cities, confirming the presence of ready “help staff” for the working class urban population.

The latest jolt is this pitiable state of BTech, MTech and PhD qualified candidates. The pay scale of a guest teacher in Bihar government schools is a daily remuneration of Rs 1,000 or a maximum monthly salary of Rs 25,000. While all this is extremely disappointing from the point of view of the candidates, the employers from private sector have different concerns.

An astounding percentage of engineers and other professionals is unemployable as the education system does not conduct individuals towards understanding of the work environment.

In Bihar, this is particularly true because teachers’ competence is quite dubious. With such teachers, it is natural to think that the students are incompetent and not hired by big private companies which prefer employees from other parts of the country.

This endless cycle of bad education and joblessness has been royally ignored by the Nitish Kumar government. After construction of infrastructure and roads in his last term, social strengthening could have been his next target. But unfortunately, he is stuck in personal politics and blame-game.

On a recent trip to Thiruvananthapuram, I was struck by the frankness with which the taxi driver lamented the presence of “too many Biharis” in his state. He claimed that they are smart and driven and are ready to do all sorts of odd jobs. Although I was happy to hear about the archetypical competent Bihari worker, it saddened me that many people from Bihar had no option but to flee their home state for survival.

The story was same when I had visited Srinagar and Leh. It is a sad sight to watch workers from Bihar making roads in extreme cold in Ladakh and, in return, earning the complaints and wrath of the local workers.

Outside the Kanakakannu Palace in the old city center of Shashi Tharoor’s constituency in Kerela, there was a lanky fellow selling roasted peanuts. The moment he opened his mouth to tell me how much a small paper cone filled with peanuts was, I knew he was from Bihar.

A young boy from Chhapra, he had followed his uncle to Kerala in a bid to escape starvation. I bought some peanuts and, as I munched on the saltless snack, I realised that Nitish Kumar had made some big mistakes in the last few months and Bihari youth will surely make him pay for them in the next elections.