Barely 10 km from the headquarters of Amul in Anand, Gujarat, is an education hub aptly named Vallabh Vidyanagar. On April 17, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a gathering here. But that day, many colleges were empty as the semester had ended and most students had gone home. Among those who had stayed back, not everyone went to see the Prime Minister.
Vishal Barot, a final-year student of Mechanical Engineering who is a local resident, said he will vote for a “good candidate”, irrespective of the party he or she belongs to. Anand goes to polls on Tuesday.
Barot said that in his batch, just about 10 per cent of students in core branches of engineering have been placed. There are jobs in the IT sector and many of the students from that stream have been placed, but not enough in manufacturing, he said. He added that he likes Modi even though the government may not have fulfilled its promises on jobs, but he won’t vote for the BJP just because of Modi. The candidate has to be right, he said.
Several students said that if they are not placed, they will pursue higher studies, join the family business or apply for bank jobs and other government jobs.
Jilpa, a 22-year-old local resident, has completed a four-year course in engineering and is now filling up a form to apply to the post of Probationary Officer with the State Bank of India. She and her friend from Bhuj, Deep Patel, said the response of companies during placements is “quite cold”. She, however, said she is trying to switch to banking because she prefers that over engineering now.
Milan, 25, from Surat and Mahesh, 23, from Jamnagar, skipped the Prime Minister’s rally as they were working on a solar project on which they have to present a paper. They too said the candidate matters to them more than any party.
In Vadodara, outside the library of the Maharaja Sayajirao University, final-year MCom students Ridhi Contractor and Mehul said they don’t think there is a lack of jobs. “Those who want to get a job find one” said Mehul. The two said that for students like them, the GST has brought in more job opportunities as “not many people understand it well”. But the starting salary is still a concern, with Contractor saying that most offers are of less than Rs 8,000 per month for a student with a Master’s degree.
Their university batchmates, Jaynisha Parmar and Abida Kapadia, both in their final year of MSc in Chemistry, said the job situation is not very good as pharmaceutical companies have picked some students, but many are yet to find proper jobs. They, however, don’t think the issue of jobs will affect Modi’s chances. Kapadia added that she is not sure what was finally achieved by the Balakot airstrikes.
Their friend, Shivangi Rana from Khambath, is about to complete her Masters degree in engineering and is concerned about jobs. She, however, said she likes the Modi government “for its policies” that have helped students in some universities find good hostels for free. None of the three trust any party more than others, they said. But Modi, they believe, is a taller leader than others right now.
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A couple of kilometres away, outside a boys’ hostel, 21-year-olds Bharat Parmar, Bhagwan Desai and Hardik Bhatt have made up their minds about whom to vote for. Parmar and Desai, both from Rajasthan, are final year students of postgraduate courses in social work and political science, respectively, and have decided to vote for the Congress. Parmar says the candidate in his constituency has helped his family in the past. Desai has chosen the Congress because he is leader of the party’s student wing, National Students’ Union of India. Bhatt, a student of Economics, will, however, take a decision depending on the candidates in Surat.
Desai says that in 2014, he too believed that Modi “might turn things around, but does not believe so anymore”. They are concerned about jobs, but each has a plan. Desai wants to stick to politics. Parmar plans to go back to his hometown and look for a government job, and Bhatt has decided to join the family trade of sugarcane farming.