Voters Hope for Jobs and a Graft-free Life in New Telangana
By GS Vasu | Published: 18th April 2014 07:37 AM |
As I prepare to get into my car after an engaging conversation with a group of people in the heart of Medak, 55-year-old Fukur Basha waves his hand requesting me to stop for a while. He quickly picks up a piece of paper and a pen and scribbles down the names of his two sons and their mobile numbers.
Handing it over to me, he pleads with folded hands: “Sir, please find them a job in Hyderabad. They are good and hard-working. They will not bring a bad name to you.” Both are graduates. One took a test to be a constable but is unsure of landing the job while the other works at a local computer shop.
During the recent local elections, candidates went to Fukur Basha’s home and offered him money. “I did not accept the money, sir. Shareef se jeeya. Mere bachchon ko naukri chahiye. Aur kuch nahi (I lived honestly. My sons need employment, nothing else),” he says and just to make sure that he is not pleading his case alone, he stresses “berozgari” (unemployment) is the biggest problem across Telangana. All I could do was emphathise with him. Schemes such as fee reimbursement have helped thousands of youth study engineering and other courses, but left a majority of them unemployed for varied reasons. As you criss-cross the heartland of Telangana, where the statehood agitation once reached its peak, beneath the clamour among politicos to occupy the gaddi, you hear similar sob stories built on hopes, aspirations and dreams in a manner that will shake the conscience of even the hard-boiled.
Sitting next to Fukur Basha, who sells watermelons during summer and other fruits rest of the year, is Narsimhulu, a cobbler. “Why don’t you sit under a shade?” I ask him. But, he fears he would not be noticed and lose the little business he does. Thanks to fee reimbursement again, his elder son completed BTech in a Hyderabad college and works part-time. The younger one took a course in education training and is awaiting DSC test.
“Unless you offer money from under the table, the offer letter will not be on the table. The certificates are useless, sir,” he says with a sigh of resignation. Over a hundred kilometres away, as you enter Manakondur town on the outskirts of Karimnagar, 36-year-old Sampath, an auto-driver, reflects the hopes and dreams of the region. He makes Rs 300 a day and spends Rs 5,000 per month on the education of his two children — a son who stays in a hostel in Hyderabad while pursuing first-year B Tech and a daughter who is studying pharmacy in a Karimnagar college. “I could not study and married early. But,I want my children to have a better life,” he says. His wife does odd jobs to meet the additional burden.
Some have given up. At Argul village in Nizamabad rural belt, abutting the Nagpur expressway, 45-year-old Pochaiah, salesman in a primary agricultural society, registered with the employment exchange back in 1990. “To this day, I have not received a single call letter. One day, I visited the exchange and tore the papers,” he recalls. At the PAC, he is paid `6,000 per month. Perhaps influenced by his plight, Pochaiah’s brother-in-law Viswanath, who has just completed his under-graduation, says he is not interested in a job. He would rather focus on cultivating the two acres of land he has. Pochaiah, however, chides him: “You have to say agriculture is no longer self-sustaining and that you hope to get a job in a new Telangana government.”
As you enter Bidrapur village near Banswada town, you get to meet a fairly big group of men and women who have just finished their day’s labour under the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (REGS). Once an owner of six acres, Ravinder Reddy sold three of them to get his son and daughter educated. Having completed engineering and pharmacy, both are awaiting jobs. From 6 am to noon, he works under REGS for `100, takes a brief break before he sets out to his field by 3 pm when power supply begins. By the time he returns home, it would be 10 p.m.
While Ravinder still presents a sober face with some hope, Sakuntala is livid that she worked so hard to place her children in reasonably good colleges in Hyderabad. “When they come, they don’t even pick up a broomstick to clean the house, because they are educated. They are neither prepared to do the kind of work I do nor able to get jobs for themselves.”
On one plane, it reflects the hard work that poor parents are putting in to provide a different and decent life to their children. At the same time, it shows the internal conflict of having to bear with children who are neither willing to be farm hands nor able to manage their lives on their own even after education.
The travails seem to be unending, one of which is rising corruption in government machinery which is hurting people the most. As you travel from Korutla to Vemulawada temple town, 30-year-old Ramesh, an SC hamali, narrates the story of how he had to spend Rs 15,000 to get post-death benefit for the children of his aunt who passed away recently. After multiple visits to offices in Karimnagar and Warangal, he managed to get Rs 30,000 for which an “investment” of Rs 15,000 had to be made. “No benefit, other than rice and pension, comes without a bribe. What is the use of these schemes?” he rues.
And, then there are countless farmers who want nothing but regular power supply to their fields. The plea remains the same — give six or seven hours a day in one spell instead of staggered and uncertain supply.
Post-June 2, when the T state comes into being, the new government will be literally sitting on a tinder box. And, the backlash this time round is likely to be far more severe than the unrest during the statehood movement.