Every time Syed Taiyab looks up from his files,he sees men jostling outside his office window that doubles as a counter. In his 17 years as a clerk at the Regional Employment Exchange in Lucknow,this is the second time that he has seen such crowds. In 2006,when then chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav announced an unemployment allowance,youths fought and even threatened the clerks. Once they even broke the window of a counter, he says. Now they are better behaved.
This time,the crowds are back after major political parties in Uttar Pradesh promised to dole out unemployment allowance to youths if voted to power. In its election manifesto released on January 20,the Samajwadi Party promised to pay Rs 1,000 a month to unemployed youths. A week later,the Bharatiya Janata Party promised an unemployment allowance of Rs 2,000 a month and one crore jobs and self-employment opportunities for the youth. Finally,the Congress promised that 20 lakh youths would be provided vocational training and employment. Suddenly,a large number of youths started queuing up at employment exchanges across the state.
In Lucknow,18,163 people registered with the exchange in 2011. But after the promises by political parties,7,329 people registered in February alone. In January,this figure was only 1,572.
Even before the elections,we registered people every day. The numbers ranged from 25 to 30 on a lean day and would go up to 200 when some government department advertised vacancies. But these days,we are registering at least 500 youths every day, says Taiyab,his head bent low on a form,eyes scanning the columns.
Taiyab and his colleagues usually start working at 10,but these days they start 15 minutes earlier. Otherwise the queues become unmanageable by midday, he says. Today,the verandah of the employment office is chock-a-block with people and the queue extends all the way to the parking lot.
Taiyab mans the general counter for men while another four counters are for women,the physically challenged,people with technical qualification and the unskilled. After the poll promises,they had to add three more counters. If the crowd swells,more counters are opened for the day.
As registration clerk,Taiyab verifies the form,looks for mistakes,checks the mark sheets,collects certificates for caste or extra qualification,and issues a registration number before entering the name in the main register. Because of the crowds,Taiyabs job has been split in twonow someone else makes entries in the main register. Every fifteen minutes,Taiyab has to take a break from his verification work and persuade the men to remain in a queue. Sometimes,the applicants get restless and try to force their way into the office.
Fill in your date of birth in words and mention the name of your college, he tells a youth standing in the queue for his registration,before grabbing the next bunch of mark sheets and form. Do we have to fill in a bank account number as well? asks 30-year-old Mohammad Islam,a farmer from Maal block of Lucknow,handing over his certificates. Why would we need your account number? Taiyab asks back,smiling at Islam. These people are here only for the promised unemployment allowance, he says.
Some of those registering as unemployed work at private firms. And there are those who are not even residents of Lucknow. Taiyab does not bother to enquire. The person has to give a Lucknow address,and his word is enough for us to accept that he is a resident of Lucknow. We do not cross-check, he says. One Brijendra Kumar,a resident of Barabanki,is already working with a private firm in Lucknow as a data-entry operator. I get around Rs 4,000 now. But I am registering to get a government job. If the SP gives Rs 1,000 as unemployment allowance,the registration will help me get that as well, says Kumar.
Forms are issued and registration work is completed by 1.30 p.m. after which the data is processed. These days Taiyab and his colleagues rarely take time off during the 1.30-2 p.m. lunch break.