While Punjab’s Cong govt claims to have facilitated employment for over 12 lakh youths in last 3 years as part of its pre-poll promise, opposition claims most of them have only landed menial jobs.
Ajay Kumar Prashar, a father of two young children and a resident of Kurali, lost his leg in a road accident in February last year. The amputation not only left him without a leg but also without a livelihood. It was in November that he got in touch with the District Bureau of Employment and Enterprise (DBEE), Mohali.
Under the self-employment scheme of the state government, the Bureau was quick to help him in getting a loan of Rs 5 lakh under the Mudra Scheme. Last month, Prashar set up a documentation centre in Kurali. The centre is doing well and so is Prashar, who had almost given up on life.
“I was depressed and had no desire to live till I came in contact with the DBEE, Mohali. Here, I was not only counselled on various ways to earn my keep, but also helped with artificial limbs. They put me up with a prophylactics centre,” he told The Indian Express.
“Though my venture is just a month old, I am positive that I will be able to make it a success. At least, I can feed my two children now,” he added.
Many lives touched
Prashar is not the only one to have benefitted from Punjab’s Ghar Ghar Rozgar project, a scheme aimed at providing jobs to the unemployed.
Mukesh Kumari, who set up Sakshi Make-Up Studio at Mohali’s Desu Majra village after getting training from a partner of Punjab Skill Development Mission in Sector 10, Chandigarh, is now eyeing a career in Bollywood.
“I got free training thanks to the District Bureau of Employment and Enterprise (DBEE). Now, I have employed two more girls trained by the centre. I also freelance for Bollywood, and if all goes well, I will be getting an assignment for a commercial shoot in Mumbai next month for which I will need at least 15 makeup artists.’’
Kumari, who studied till Class XII, says she is living a dream. She is now doing her bit to pay back by employing girls trained by the Skill Development Centre that groomed her. “The moment these makeup artists get trained, I will be able to get them employment. It’s all thanks to the District Bureau of Employment,” she gushes.
Jashanpreet Singh from Jaitowal village in Sangrur, who completed his graduation last year and took training in photography from a Skill Development Centre, has now landed a job worth Rs 20,000 with a TV channel. “I am satisfied with my job. It is a great start. I am finally standing on my feet,” says the youth who is quite effusive in his praise of the DBEE.
Promise and delivery
Before elections, the Punjab Congress had in its manifesto promised jobs for at least one member of every family. It had even got forms filled from youths with their phone numbers.
After taking over in March 2017, the Punjab government started working on its big-ticket announcement. Though the uninviting employment exchanges of yore have given way to DBEEs, there is a difference between promise and reality. While the pre-poll promise was to provide a job to at least one youth in every family, in reality, the government is acting as a bridge between the youths and employers. It is also helping them get employable by honing their skills in various fields. Thanks to this, the government has been able to help a number of youths get jobs with Swiggy, Zomato, Ola, private banks and others employers.
The first thing that the Capt government did after coming to power was to dissolve all the employment exchanges and set up the DBEEs. “We have made sure that these DBEEs look like corporate offices. There are conference halls, counselling offices and LED screens that display vacancies all the time. We have tele-calling staff that keeps on getting in touch with these youths,” said an official. The Skill Development Mission has empanelled 20 training partners and a stipend of anything between Rs 100 to 200 per day is given to the students. The Mohali DBEE alone has a footfall of 40 students every day.
The report card
According to Census India 2011, Punjab has 55,13,071 households and in three years the state government’s own records claim that they have helped in providing jobs to 12,15,969 youths in these households. Till last year, it had claimed that 5,76,748 jobs were given in two years. In three years, this is a success rate of 22 per cent. Of the 12 lakh jobs, 57,905 are in government departments, 3.96 lakh in private enterprises. What is most remarkable is that a whopping 7.61 lakh people have become entrepreneurs, running small enterprises of their own.
The Opposition, however, accuses the government of providing only menial jobs such as that of a salesman at a store, a worker at a dhaba and the like, to the youths. The government argues that they are the facilitators. They collect data of job vacancies, upskill unemployed youths, and help them choose from whatever is available.
Saddled with a fat salary bill of Rs 24,000 crore of 3.5 lakh employees, the government has now decided to retire about 7,000 employees this year in a bid to provide job opportunities to at least 25,000 youths. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has also announced 1 lakh jobs for youths in government offices in the next two years.
“Instead of sitting at home and not doing anything, it is better we find them a range of jobs. They just have to apply to us. We get back to them,” said an official.
The government states that the expectations of the youth in Punjab are not in sync with their educational qualifications. “Whenever a youth approaches us, we counsel him in the DBEE. He or she is told his/her worth. We send some for skill development and others are invited to the job fairs. They are offered jobs as per their capability. But often, youngsters do not want to start at less than Rs 15,000 per month. This creates a gulf between the expectation and reality,” rues Harpreet Kaur, District Bureau of Employment, Mohali. Government sources added that while most want a job that pays at least Rs 15,000 per month, the market in most cases is only willing to pay them Rs 6,000-7,000 as a month’s earning.
Most youngsters in the state are also sold on the idea of going abroad, and scripting a success story overseas. “Almost every youngster wants to go abroad. They want us to facilitate their passage. No matter what job we find them, their heart is not in it. They want to leave everything and fly off at the first available opportunity. That is why the government is now setting up infrastructure to help send such youths abroad,’’ said a senior bureaucrat.
The Department of Employment Generation of Punjab has collated data to reach the figure of unemployed youths in the state. As per the Government of India data, and figures collected by the Department of Industry that outsourced the work to KPMG, as many as 12 lakh youths were unemployed in the state till 2017. Every year, 2 lakh employable youths enter the market. “This mathematics tells us that to date, there are about 18 lakh unemployed youths in the state. As per our data, we have helped 12 lakh in getting jobs. But we have no means to check whether each one of 12 lakh youths got the jobs or there is attrition. There could be many youths who are changing jobs in a year and landing a new one at job fairs. We have no means to know that,” said an official of the government.
Under-employment is also an issue in Punjab. There are often reports that highly qualified youths take up jobs not commensurate with their skills and qualifications. Sometimes engineering graduates apply for jobs of clerks, stenographers, et al, all because they are government jobs. “This is a phenomenon which prevails across the country but it is sad,” said an official.
It is an irony, however, that the 22 DBEEs in the state that are connecting lakhs of youths with employers, are themselves understaffed. There are only 350 employees in the department with an IAS officer as its Administrative Secretary and another as Director, with additional charge. The staff at the DBEEs, which handles counselling, data collection, and collating, is skeletal and that impacts their performance in turn. The department has recently hired on contract several young graduates from top business schools of the country. They counsel the youths and encourage them to enrol in skill development courses being run by the government with the help of training partners.