Tara Dutt Pant, 35 and a graduate, sells tea at a makeshift stall in Northwest Delhi. He looks rueful as students troop out of Delhi Polytechnic University. “I am a graduate and fluent in English, yet I sell tea to support my wife and four children,” says Pant. “I applied for a bank job, trained at shorthand, and have a diploma from the fire services where I worked as a cook for eight years. I don’t have a proper job or a house. Those are my worries, not how good or bad roads are, or how close the nearest Metro station is.”
Anuj Bhati, 40 and a postgraduate in Hindi from Delhi University, supplies packaging material from Badli. “I am fluent in English” — he speaks in that language — “and have tried a variety of jobs. My application for the post of a warden at Tihar jail was rejected, I left teaching at a private school, I worked in rail transport management for a year. I kept changing jobs because the pay was too low, as if my degree is of no value. Now I am self-employed, but hate what I am doing though the money is enough to support my family.”
Pant and Bhati, both of Northwest Delhi, represent a constituency whose problems are acknowledged by candidates, but not by parties on campaign. The AAP has centred its discourse on cheaper electricity and rations, the BJP on roads, and the Congress on what it did in 15 years.
“Yes, we have this large section of young English-fluent men who have nowhere to go,” agrees Ved Prakash, AAP candidate from Bawana. “They either have to travel tens of kilometres to Gurgaon and Noida to find jobs that suit their qualifications, or don’t find a job at all.”
“Look, it’s not in our hands to create jobs. The central government is supposed to,” says Kulwant Rana, Rithala’s BJP candidate. “If the BJP is voted to power in Delhi as it was to the Lok Sabha, only then will we be able to address the issue.”
Rita Shokeen, Congress candidate from Mundka, suggests these graduates can get jobs as clerks or other staff in the various institutions that parties have been promising Delhi. “I will build small factories and general stores where the educated youth can be absorbed as salesmen or supervisors,” she says.
These would be far short of their dreams. Many of the educated lot in Northwest Delhi, the district with the lowest literacy rate in the city at 84.66 per cent (Census 2011), have been trying to supplement their degrees with fluency at English; they go to coaching centes at Rural and Outer Delhi.
Vikas Kumar, 27, an unemployed postgraduate student in Sultanpur Majra, had once tried an English coaching institute of his own but could not run it for long. “Hum jaise awaare aapko har gali mein milenge,” he says. “School aur college kar toh liya, lekin ab kaam hi nahin hai.”
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